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Mexico: Citizen Journalism in the Middle of Drug-Trafficking Violence

In the last months, the violence stemming from drug-trafficking organizations reached a peak in the Mexican state of Nuevo León, the metropolitan area of Monterrey and the North. There are constant battles in public spaces with firearms [es] and grenades [es], and“express” kidnappings [es] (known as “levantones”). There have also been cases of executions and decapitations both of members of drug cartels and authorities [es], blockading of streets and avenues [es] (known as “narcobloqueos”), and even the death of two students caught in a crossfire [es] outside the campus of the most important private university of the country.

The violence in Nuevo León is part of a wave that affects the northern region of Mexico, including cities of Reynosa (border-city with the United States) and Tampico (with a port to the Gulf of Mexico). This violence can be attributed to violent confrontations of two main drug organizations: the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas, as shown by this map of BBC news.

According to the newspaper El Diario de Coahuila, in the first months of 2010, there were 121 deaths related to the organized crime [es] in the state of Nuevo León, surpassing the total of drug-related deaths in 2007. In March, the “narcobloqueos”, or public blockades of streets and avenues by the drug cartels, exceeded 30 in one weekend for Monterrey, with a result of 7 deaths as explained by newspaper Excélsior [es].

Because of the rise in violence, in March the government of United States issued warnings to stop traveling to Mexico [es] during that country's Spring Break. Furthermore, Mexican military and Marine corps are present in Monterrey intervening in the confrontations, and have targeted local authorities implicated in drug-trafficking [es].

Mexican bloggers and twitter users in the region provide their thoughts on the delicate situation in their region.

In his blog, blogger Sinful sums up the history of the confrontation between the two main drug cartels [es], the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas. He writes about an specific type of robbery that happens in the implicated cities:

Los Zetas siguen robando camionetas en Nuevo León para llevarlas a pelear, camionetas de pasajeros son las ideales, el Cártel del Golfo le pone pegotes a sus camionetas con sus siglas, CDG, o bien una X en la parte trasera, andan uniformados estilo militar del desierto.

The Zetas steal trucks in Nuevo León to take them to the battles, trucks with passenger seats are ideal, the Gulf Cartel place stickers on their trucks with the letters CDG (spanish: Cartel del Golfo), or an X in the back of the trunk, they are uniformed in desert military style.

Although the violence in the affected zones is extraordinary, citizens have reported that mainstream media (including both newspaper El Norte and Milenio) have kept silent regarding many of the battles in the city, as user RagePerez noted [es]:

hahaha la noticia de la balacera de anoche ya esta en el norte hahhaha pero no dice NADA pff

hahaha news of the last night's shooting is already up in el norte hahhaha but it doesnt say ANYTHING pff

Under the hashtag #balacera [es] (“shooting”), Twitter users of Nuevo León and Tamaulipas inform each other of the events in real time, as user ArtG0n [es] did with another shooting near the Monterrey Technology University:

Llegando del Tec de Monterrey después de que no nos dejara salir la gente de seguridad porque se registró otra #balacera por garza sada.

Arriving from Tec de Monterrey after security did not let people out because there was another #balacera (“shooting”) by garza sada avenue.

Among the citizen media, Blog del Narco [es] reports from their Twitter account [es] about the “narcobloqueos” or blockages in streets and avenues:

NarcoBloqueo en salinas, saliendo de #Monterrey http://tweetphoto.com/20530881

NarcoBloqueo in Salinas, just outside #Monterrey http://tweetphoto.com/20530881

Users also share their testimonies of the events. Student and blogger M1zAr [es] was on the campus of the Monterrey university when two graduate students were killed as result of a shooting between the military and narcotraffickers. In her personal blog, she narrated the situation outside the campus [es] and how she used Twitter to navigate in the confusion:

Empecé a twittear lo que había oído, más gente preguntaba que sabía y luego empezaron a twittear que había gente en el tec encerrada en biblioteca y que no los dejaban salir. Pasó más tiempo, ya eran casi las 2, y se empezaron a escuchar carros, la calle empezó a tener tráfico como si fueran las 10 de la noche, y les dije, miren ya los están dejando salir, igual y ya me puedo subir. Nos asomamos a la cochera otra vez, y vimos carros y carros pasar, rumbo a Garza Sada. Después empezamos a ver carros en contra, cuando se supone que Luis Elizondo es de un solo sentido. Entonces puse más atención, vi que había pasado un chevy, después un malibú, y en eso, veo que en sentido contrario pasan el mismo chevy y después el malibú. “Hey se están regresando. No quieren salir por Garza Sada de seguro” ni terminé de decir la frase, ya eran las 2am y se oyó otra serie de balazos. Obvio corrimos adentro, esta vez no duraron tanto como la primera.

I started tweeting what I had heard, more people asked about what I knew and then they started tweeting that there were people locked in the library and they couldn't get out. Time passed, it was almost 2 in the morning, and cars could be heard, the street started to be crowded as if it was 10 at the night, and I told them, look they are letting them out, maybe I can go up. We looked into the garage again, and we saw cars and cars go by, towards Garza Sada avenue. After that, we started to see cars going in the reverse direction, when avenue Luis Elizondo is supposed to go one way. Then I paid more attention to it, I noticed a chevy, then a malibu, and then, in reverse direction came the same chevy and later the malibu. “Hey they are coming back. Surely they don't want to go out by Garza Sada” I couldn't finish the phrase, it was 2am, and another shooting could be heard. Obviously we ran inside, this time wasn't as long as the first one.

After the detailed post, blogger M1zAr received anonymous warnings from her readers [es], regarding the protection of her privacy in order to avoid any harassment from the drug organizations:

Linda, te sugiero cambiar tu perfil, quitar fotos, etc. ya embarraste hasta a tu novio con fotos y direcciones y todo sobre tu identidad, ahora eres vulnerable.

Dios los Bendiga…..

Dear, I suggest you should change your profile, take out pictures, etc. you already put your boyfriend in danger with photos and everything about your identity, now you're vulnerable.

God bless you…..

In the independent news agency SDP Noticias, Marifer Durán also tells about what she experienced [es] the day of the Tec de Monterrey shooting. She comments on the growing insecurity in the city and how it has affected her daily life:

¿Díganme que ruta ya no está literalmente mortal? Está muy mal esto la verdad, la libramos por segundos. Yo ya dejé de ir a antros, lugares masivos, y ¿ahora qué? Ya no puedo ni ir a casa de mis amigas. Ahora creo que viviremos encerrados, porque otra… yo no me arriesgo.

Tell me, which route isn't literally mortal? This is so wrong, truly, we made it just because of seconds. I stopped going to clubs, massive venues, and now what? I can no longer go to my friends’ houses. Now I think we will live locked up, because another one… I won't take the risk.

Diego Enrique Osorno, journalist with published works related to Mexican drug trafficking, shared from his Twitter [es]:

¿Qué predomina en los periódicos: lo que se dice o lo que se calla?

What governs the newspapers: what it is said or what it is silenced?

In his blog for newspaper Milenio Osorno has shared a three-party story called “El origen del Narco” (“The origins of Narco”) that begins from a newspaper drug story in the state of Sinaloa in 1920.

In MtyBlog [es] a press release from the State Government of Nuevo León in April was criticized after the governor Rodrigo Medina was quoted saying that “the security subject is not a priority of the government”. Followed by a screen capture after its removal, the author of the blog commented:

Era inverosimil pensar que en nuestro estado alguien, quien sea, piense que la seguridad, la cual se ha perdido, no sea tema prioritario. La duda que a lo mejor nunca aclararemos es…¿Error de dedo o triste realidad?

It was improbable to think that in our State, someone, no matter who, thinks that security, which is now lost, it is not a priority. The doubt that we will never clear up is… typographical error or sad reality?

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