Mexico: Fear and Intimidation in Electronic Media

The drug-related violence taking place in northern Mexico is being seen in citizen media. Through warnings and threats sent through blogs and emails, many residents are heavily impacted by the violence.

In addition to the security operatives and the military intervention in zones of violence, the federal government started the RENAUT [es] program in order to register all cellphones numbers. The program registers each number with the name of the owner, the place of birth, and the CURP (citizen unique key) with aims to prevent telephonic extortion, kidnapping, and drug-related issues.

Through Twitter, citizens have shared their discontent with the program for both irregularities in the registry as well as the uncertainty regarding how the user database will be secured. In the blog Yo también te dije wey! the author questions who will be responsible [es] for the results of the RENAUT:

¿Quien nos garantiza que esas bases de datos no van a estar despues en manos de los criminales? NADIE. Si sucede algo, nos tendremos que conformar con un USTED DISCULPE, con un SALIO DE NUESTRO CONTROL.

Who will guarantee that the database won't later be in the hands of criminals? NOBODY. If something happens, we will have to accept a “WE'RE SORRY”, with a “IT RAN OUT OF OUR CONTROL”.

On the other hand, government employee Nazario Norberto presented a proposal in January to regulate electronic media and social networks, to avoid the distribution of messages of fear and videos created by the organized crime, but also used by citizens to warn others to avoid alcohol check-points in the streets.

From his Twitter account, Norberto (@nazarionorberto) addressed [es] the protests against the proposal, recognized by the users as the first step to prohibit the electronic media:

no lo queremos prohibir, eso es falso lo que queremos es regularlo para protegerte a ti de los delincuentes

we don't want to prohibit it, that is false what we want to do is to regulate it to protect you from the criminals

Both users and authorities in the subject have noted the flaws of this proposal. In the Time magazine article “To Battle Cartels, Mexico Weighs Twitter Crackdown” notes that not all Twitter users are contributing to this negative use of social media. Some have become citizen journalists reporting on news that some media outlets refrain from publishing because of possible retribution from the drug cartels.

Some of these warning messages have been distributed online through forwarded emails. For example, this one was republished in its entirety in the Mexico Defense forum [es].

En los próximos días la guerra entre carteles se extenderá en forma radiada hacia Allende, Terán, Montemorelos, Linares, Cd. Victoria, San Fernando y las ciudades del sur de los estados. Es probable que Monterrey y su área Metropolitana también vaya a ser blanco de este tipo de guerra ya que aquí predomina el Cartel de los Zetas y todavía en San pedro los Beltrán Leyva que son grupos aliados.

In the next days the war between cartels will extend in radial form towards the cities of Allende, Terán, Montemorelos, Linares, Cd. Victoria, San Fernando and the southern cities. It is probable that Monterrey and its metropolitan area will be target of this war since here the Zeta Cartel governs and in San pedro the Beltrán Leyva are still group allies.

The same email has recommendations to the citizens to avoid collateral damage, with a tendency to inflict paranoia:

La guerra entre carteles es probable llegue al área metropolitana de Mty en las próximos 10 a 20 días, así que si pueden hagan despensa, junten agua para tomar y en si todos los víveres necesarios, por si acaso. Ya que si empieza el fenómeno, como lo esta en la frontera, será mas complicado y peligroso hacerlo en medio de balaceras y explosiones de granadas. Será mejor estar cerca de casa en todo momento.

The war between cartels will probably reach the metropolitan area of Monterrey in the next 10 to 20 days, so if you can buy the basics, gather drinking water, and all the food supplies needed, just to prevent. Because if the phenomenon starts, like it is right now in the frontier, it will be more complicated and dangerous to do it between shootings and grenade explosions. It will be better to stay at home at all moments.

Aside from the e-mails of fear, Blog del Narco publishes news of all drug-related events, including videos with threats that apparently come from the cartels themselves. In May 1st, a message of the Gulf Cartel to the Zetas was published [es] (warning: graphic images), and its Dailymotion video shows a decapitated person in uniform.


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