Mexico: Second moderator from anti-crime site killed

The fourth murder of a blogger in the northern Mexico state of Tamaulipas has confirmed the suspicion many journalists have in this country: that organised crime has become more sophisticated in their interception capabilities.  The decapitated body of the blogger, a male in his 30s, was reported to local police in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas early Wednesday morning.  Next to the victim there was a scrawled message on a piece of clothing often used by organized crime.  The message said that the man was 35 years old and nicknamed him “El Rascatripas”,  (the intestine scratcher).  It accused the man of moderating the Internet site “Nuevo Laredo En Vivo”, the same site once moderated by María Elizabeth Macías, la “NenaDLaredo”, (the girl from Laredo), who was also killed by drug traffickers in September.

The blog continued to operate after the Wednesday reports, but warned its users not to reveal personal details and claimed that the blog was secure.

Social media has been an important source of information for residents of Tamaulipas, where the local press exercises 100 percent censorship on stories related to drug trafficking because of reprisals, according to an investigation by the Fundacion MEPI de Periodismo de Investigacion published last year. Using social media still comes at a cost, two youths were tortured and hung as examples for reporting drug-related crime on Twitter in September.

The level of technical skills at the disposal of drug traffickers and their associates is unknown, and the question of security and social media use has been a much discussed subject amongst Mexican journalists. The  Fundacion MEPI, recounts how 13 technicians working for various international telephone and data companies have been kidnapped in the last two years by suspected members of the Zetas drug organization. Only two of the victims have been released. News of the kidnapping received some coverage in the Mexican media, but they were quickly replaced by stories of new victims in a drug war that has already caused 40,000 deaths. For the families of the victims, hope was renewed when federal police release pictures of technical equipment confiscated to the Zetas in the southern port city of Veracruz, according to Proceso.

Murders a warning to Mexican social media users

The butchered bodies of a young man and a woman were found on Tuesday hanging from freeway overpass in Nuevo Laredo, Taumalipas on the US-Mexico border. Two hand-scribbled cardboard placards were left beside the bodies as a warning for Twitter and Facebook users reporting violent incidents online and through social media networks. The women’s body had been disembowelled and the ears and fingers were symbolically mutilated.

“This is going to happen to all of those posting funny things on the internet,” one sign said. “You better (expletive) pay attention. I’m about to get you.” The placards listed two specific sites which track drug crime Al Rojo Vivo and Blog del Narco and according to a spokesman from the state attorney’s office, the signs accused the unidentified victims of denouncing drug-related violence. The note was signed with the letter Z, suggesting the murders were the work of the Zetas, the organised crime syndicate which controls large parts of Taumalipas.

Maria Elena Meneses, social media expert at the Tecnologico de Monterrey, said that this new attack underscored the importance that social media has in Mexican regions with drug related violence. “People tweet and use Facebook in these areas because they feel abandoned by local government officials who cannot provide them with security, and the local news media which cannot inform,” she said. “To tweet is to mitigate uncertainty.”

A 2010 study on media and violence by the Fundacion de Periodismo de Investigacion (MEPI) found that the news media in the city of Nuevo Laredo exercised 100 per cent self censorship. In one incident, on the day that a mass grave was found with the bodies of 72 migrant workers, the Taumalipas daily El Mañana chose to run a front page story about a woman beating her young daughter instead. As drug cartels silence the press, locals have turned to social media to hear and share the news, an option it its clear that organised crime is now keen to shut-down.