In Nuevo Laredo, Mexico yesterday, bloggers and Twitter users who share information on crimes of drug cartels and related gangs received a gruesome warning. The tortured bodies of two people in their mid-twenties "hanging like cuts of meat from a pedestrian bridge" were found with posters warning various sites that publish news of narco-terror incidents to stop, or suffer a similar fate.
This is the first incident I am aware of in Mexico in which social media users and bloggers, as opposed to journalists working for more conventional news organizations, have been targeted in this manner.
This happened for snitching on Frontera Al Rojo Vivo (A Grupo Refroma internet forum created to both inform of and denounce cartel activity)
The other message read:
This will happen to all the internet snitches (Frontera al Rojo Vivo, Blog Del Narco, or Denuncia Ciudadano) Be warned, we've got our eye on you. Signed, Z
The Z stands for "Zetas," and implies that the Zetas cartel was responsible for the killings—though this has not been verified. Rumors and theories are swirling online today about who did it, and who the victims are. Any number of scenarios are possible. But in all, the message and the identities of its intended targets are clear.
A woman was hogtied and disemboweled, her intestines protruding from three deep cuts on her abdomen. Attackers left her topless, dangling by her feet and hands from a bridge in the border city of Nuevo Laredo. A bloodied man next to her was hanging by his hands, his right shoulder severed so deeply the bone was visible. Signs left near the bodies declared the pair, both apparently in their early 20s, were killed for posting denouncements of drug cartel activities on a social network.
Commenting on the news today, Nick Valencia of CNN tweeted,
This new development in the drugwar of threats to social media users speaks volumes to the subhuman nature of the cartels and narcos. Seemingly anyone is fair game for the narcos in their brutal campaign for money and power in Mexico. [But] social media users in Mexico have vowed to stand strongly united in the face of the narcos cowardly expressions of violence.
The identities of the victims have not been reported, and it is not yet clear why they were targeted. I asked Valencia via Twitter, and he replied: "We don't know much about the two victims. There is speculation they may have been lookouts for the cartels."
Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas director Rosental C. Alves wrote today: "After shutting up part of the Mexican press, the Zetas criminals have now started killing people to shut up social media, too."
More: HoyLaredo.net (where the report apparently first appeared online on September 13, 2011), Mundo Narco, Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post, Houston Chronicle, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.