Cartels Terrorize Mexican Social Media Users

Maybe the ultimate testimony to social media’s power as a force for transparency and openness is the fear it inspires in malefactors who benefit from fear and secrecy. This is certainly the case in Mexico, where drug cartels continue trying to terrorize social media users into not talking about crimes committed by violent drug gangs across the northern part of the country.

Most recently, this week a video posted on YouTube appeared to show a social media user who crossed the cartels being executed. The supposed victim, who was kneeling and wearing a black hood, reads a letter stating that he was a contributor to Valor Por Tamaulipas, an online discussion forum focused on the border state of Tamaulipas, and warning other contributors to stop talking about gang activities on online discussion forums. He then appears to be killed with a gunshot to the head.

Earlier this week flyers were posted in several cities in Tamaulipas offering a bounty of $47,000 to anyone who would identify the person who operates Valor Por Tamaulipas, which was founded in January of this year, or any of his or her family members.

It’s not clear whether the murder was staged or real, or whether the supposed victim was really a contributor to online discussion forums. However, the drug gangs have murdered reporters and bloggers in the past for discussing organized crime activities online. In September 2011, the mangled bodies of a man and a woman, both in their early 20s, were discovered hanging from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo, just across the Texas border, along with a banner explaining "This is going to happen to all of those posting funny things on the Internet. You better f*cking pay attention. I'm about to get you." The banner specified two blogs to be avoided, El Blog del Narco and Al Rojo Vivo, both of which have documented murders and official corruption.

Later that same month another decapitated body turned out to be Maria Elizabeth Macías, 39, a freelance journalist and online commentator known as “La Nena de Laredo”; a message explained that she was killed for posting reports about drug-related crimes on “Nuevo Laredo en Vivo,” a local blog which reported drug-related crimes.

In November 2011 another body, supposedly of a social media user, was found in Nuevo Laredo with a note identifying the victim as a moderator of Nuevo Laredo en Vivo and stating, “this happened to me for not understanding that I shouldn’t report things on the social networks.”

All three notes were signed with a “Z,” indicating they were  left by Los Zetas, a powerful gang based in Tamaulipas province.

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