Mexico: moderator of online discussion forum about narcos reported as tortured, decapitated by narcos (UPDATED)
UPDATE: One media outlet in Mexico reports that there is no proof that the man killed in Nuevo Laredo on Wednesday was a social media user. Police say they are still investigating. Unlike in previous cases involving administrators/contributors to the online message board in question, the newspaper affiliated with that forum has not come forward to confirm the identity of the dead.
UPDATE 2: Nuevo Laredo Live reports that the man killed is "not one of our collaborators," but "a scapegoat" whose murder serves to send a message of fear.
The moderator of an online discussion forum about local cartel-related crime is reported to have been killed in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Near the corpse, a "narco manta," or sign taking responsibility for the murder, was found and points to the ultraviolent cartel known as the Zetas.
Wired News reports that the victim was a 35-year-old man who went by the nickname “Rascatripas” or “Scraper” (literally, “Fiddler”) on the web-based chat network Nuevo Laredo en Vivo where he served as a community moderator. The body was handcuffed, with signs of torture, and was decapitated and was placed next to a monument for Christopher Columbus about a mile south of the Texas border. That same site has previously been used as a dumping ground for victims of this form of crime.
The discussion board in question is the same one at the center of the near-identical murder of two other Nuevo Laredo residents two months ago. They were outed as active participants in the site's crime-tip forum, and they were gruesomely murdered as "snitches." Their bodies were dumped in the same location, with a sign indicating that their killing should serve as a warning for others who share information about cartel activities on the internet.
Below the man’s body was a partially obscured and blood-stained blanket. Written on the blanket in black ink: “Hi I’m ‘Rascatripas’ and this happened to me because I didn’t understand I shouldn’t post things on social networks.”
The discovery of the body Wednesday morning brings the total number of bloggers and social media networkers apparently killed in the past three months by organized crime in Mexico — and in the border city of Nuevo Laredo — to four.
One important caveat: some who cover this news beat point out that there are insufficient confirmed details to report the identity of the victim as fact just yet. Neither the police, the family of the deceased, nor the operators of the web forum have validated early online reports. It is possible that the victim's actual identity is not what the sign next to the body states. It is possible that the killing was staged by the Zetas or some other individual or entity for any number of purposes.
Given the nature of cartel-related crime in the region, those facts may take time to confirm. But the message delivered seems clear.
[Video Link] Over the last few days, word has spread of a purported #antisec operation by Anonymous against the most brutal of all Mexican drug cartels, Los Zetas. One element in the story is this video, above. Weeks after it came out, George Friedman's Austin Texas-based consulting firm Stratfor issued this report, and media gobbled it up. A story was born: "Anonymous is taking on the most feared drug cartel in the world, for great justice."
What was unusual about the way this story spread was the speed at which it was amplified by credulous reports from larger media outlets, despite a dearth of confirmable facts. This op got lots of press, fast. Faster, in fact, than it got support from Anons.
Geraldine Juarez and Renata Avila were two of the earlier voices I read expressing doubt about the prevailing storyline—a report by Juarez is here. Some I spoke to within Mexico wondered if the Mexican government (no bastion of purity) might be involved.
Over at Wired News, a must-read piece by Quinn Norton that cinches the deal for me (and in it, she references the aforementioned Global Voices item). Quinn's been covering Anonymous extensively for some time, and I trust her spidey sense on this one.
[Image courtesy General Atomics. An artist's rendition of Predator B, the unmanned aerial drone patrolling the US-Mexico border for human and drug trafficking, and other threats.]
Beginning this Wednesday, the entire 2,000 miles of border between the United States and Mexico will be patrolled by unmanned aerial drones. Three drones are already patrolling portions of that border, and a fourth Predator begins operations tomorrow out of Corpus Christi, TX, completing the full stretch of la frontera.
The news came in a Department of Homeland Security announcement yesterday, along with word that 1,200 additional National Guard troops will be deployed "to provide intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, and immediate support to counternarcotics enforcement."
They carry equipment including sophisticated day and night vision cameras that operators use to detect drug and human smugglers, and can stay aloft for up to 30 hours at a time.All of this is part of $600 million legislation signed by President Obama earlier this month to increase border security before midterm elections in November, and in response to the ever-escalating drug war in Mexico. Just today, at least 8 people were killed when attackers hurled Molotov cocktails into a bar in Cancun, a popular tourist destination. The attack is presumed to be cartel-related.
And a major drug kingpin nicknamed "The Barbie" for his light complexion was arrested this week— his takedown is seen as a badly-needed public relations coup for the Mexican government, as successive waves of horrific news hit the country.
Perhaps the most gruesome of those recent revelations was the discovery just last week of a mass grave filled with 72 murdered migrants, including a pregnant woman, who were all executed by a dominant cartel, the Zetas.
The incident took place just 100 miles from the US border.