Mexico’s hyperviolent Zetas drug cartel appears to be launching what may be one of the first campaigns by an organized crime group to silence commentary on the Internet.
The cartel has already attacked rivals, journalists and other perceived enemies. Now, the target is an online chat room, Nuevo Laredo en Vivo, that allows users to comment on the activities of the Zetas and others in the city on the border with Texas.
Already, three apparent site users have been slain, and a fourth victim may have been discovered Wednesday, when a man’s decapitated body was found with what residents said was a banner suggesting he was killed for posting on the site. Chat room users said they could not immediately confirm the victim’s identity, because people all post under aliases.
Despite such precautions, users are highly vulnerable, and the Zetas could be tracking them from clues they leave online, experts said Thursday.
A female chat room user was found decapitated in September with a similar message as the one found Wednesday and at the exact same spot, with a message signed with the letter “Z,” which refers to the Zetas. Residents couldn’t fully read the latest message, because the dead man’s body was laid on top of it, in what appeared to be a more hurried execution.
“I don’t know of anything like this having happened anywhere else in the world,” said Jorge Chabat, an expert in safety and drug trafficking at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics in Mexico. “It is certainly new and worrisome … it is a frontal confrontation against the public; it is not just a confrontation with the government anymore.”
Drug cartels in Mexico have frequently attacked traditional print newspapers, by tossing explosives at their offices or killing, kidnapping or threatening reporters. Violence against journalists in Tamaulipas state, where Nuevo Laredo is located, has led local media to censor themselves, leaving residents on their own to separate fact from pervasive rumors spread on social networks.
Juan Carlos Romero, who helps lead the press freedom group Article 19, said local newspapers have often stopped publishing crime reports out of fear, leading residents to turn more to the Internet for information like that posted Thursday on Nuevo Laredo en Vivo: where gunshots have been heard, where vehicles suspected of carrying cartel lookouts have been seen, which streets are safe to travel.
“What are people doing in the face of the lack of information, the kind of information you need to make decisions: Where can I drive? Can I leave the house?” said Romero. “People are forging new channels of communication on the Internet, social networks, Twitter, blogs, Facebook.”
Drug cartels appear to have learned that such Internet sites reach far more readers than northeastern Mexico’s small regional newspapers and have adjusted their attacks accordingly.
via Mexican drug cartel tries to silence Internet
Tortured, disemboweled and hung from a bridge for tweeting: Couple killed by Mexican drug cartel as gruesome warning to bloggers who ‘snitch’ online
Online blogging about violence in Mexico is currently one of the loudest ways it is reported, after some traditional media outlets have been silenced by cartel threats.
Bloggers who release information about trafficking have faced threats in the past, but this might be the first warning to social network users, CNN reported.
This sign was left on the bridge, translated from Spanish: ‘This is going to happen to all those posting funny things on the internet’
Investigator Ricardo Mancillas Castillo told CNN that this form of torture, including disembowelment, has been seen before in drug-related violence but he has not encountered it before with internet threats.
The investigator said the victims will be almost impossible to identify because of the severe mutilation and there were no witnesses.
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Mexico cartel drops aerial leaflets against gov’t
Drug traffickers took the unusual step of using an airplane to drop thousands of leaflets on the northern city of Culiacan accusing the governor of Sinaloa state of taking orders from drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, authorities said Wednesday.
Drug cartels in Mexico have long posted videos and hung banners from bridges to get their messages out, and they have recently taken to dumping truckloads of bodies on roadways to intimidate rivals or publicize threatening messages.
But the incident in the Sinaloa state capital of Culiacan on Tuesday is the first time in recent memory that traffickers have resorted to aerial leafleting. It may mark a further escalation in what has become a nationwide, military-scale battle between the Sinaloa cartel and the hyper-violent Zetas gang.
“I think they dumped them very early in the morning from an airplane. They surely know that it would be very difficult to do by land,” Sinaloa Gov. Mario Lopez Valdez said.
While drug cartels have occasionally left small amounts of crude, photocopied letters in some towns in the past, security expert Raul Benitez at the National Autonomous University of Mexico said it was the first time he knew of such mass leafleting, much less from an aircraft.
“I can’t remember any cartel having used an airplane to do this, nor of them having distributed propaganda in public places,” said Benitez.
The single-page, computer-printed leaflets were unsigned, but expressed anger at the in-custody killing of a suspect who was recently arrested and sent to a prison allegedly dominated by the Sinaloa cartel.
The suspect, who had been identified as a member of the Beltran Leyva gang, whose remnants have allied with the Zetas, was killed by another inmate three days ago.
The leaflet read in part, “The governor, on orders from Chapo Guzman, told the federal prosecutor’s representative to send Javier Avilez Araujo to be tortured and murdered in the state penitentiary.”
“Act like men, don’t kill people who are tied up like El Chapo Guzman does,” it continued. “Without the help of Malova, we would have finished your people off already!” the note added, using the governor’s nickname.
The governor denied he hasany links to Guzman. “This is a person I don’t even know, whom I have never had contact with and from whom I have never received an order,” Lopez Valdez said.
The wording of the letter suggests it may have been written by the Zetas, who have launched tit-for-tat attacks on Sinaloa strongholds after Sinaloa cartel gunmen and their allies moved into Zetas turf in the Gulf coast states of Veracruz and Tamaulipas.
Mexico drug gang accuses Pepsico unit of spying
Banners signed by a cult-like Mexican drug gang say that cartel members launched firebombing attacks on a PepsiCo subsidiary because they believe the snack company let law enforcement agents use its trucks for surveillanc
Five Sabritas warehouses and vehicle lots were attacked Friday and Saturday in the Mexican states of Michoacan and Guanajuato. Officials say four alleged members of the Knights Templar cartel have been detained in the case, which they link to extortion. At least 10 banners hung around the city of Apatzingan on Thursday accuse Sabritas of ferrying government agents.
The company denies that allegation, which was also circulated in emails before the attacks. Mexican drug cartels frequently earn money by demanding protection payments from small businesses. They previously had never systematically targeted a transnational firm with such attacks.
from usa today