"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Faith No More

Living in the borderlands has made me a casual observer  of the Mexican crisis. I chronicle the ongoing troubles as a way to gain an understanding of a very real and dangerous situation right at our doorstep. I glean and condense the vast volumes of information available on the web into what I hope is a comprehensible and informative digest. What I do is fairly innocuous, it's merely a rehash of what ever is already out there. But, I'm cognizant of the fact, that in Mexico any type of reporting is fast becoming hazardous to the health of the reporters.

In Mexico the 1% who hold all the wealth also terrorize and murder the remaining 99%. The new Khmer Rouge lives right next door, and eventually the smell of the killing field will drift across the border. In this country we believe that an independent news media safeguards our democratic rights. What happens when that's no longer the case? Objective reporting in Mexico is on the endangered list. It's generally assumed that some reporters receive cash payment for altering or ignoring certain stories. In some cases cartel "spokesmen" show up at crime scenes and dictate the story they want printed to beat reporters. 

With the absence of actual reporting or reliable information, Facebook & Twitter are now the primary sources of real news for many Mexican in areas under siege.  Blogs have sprung up on both sides of the border, that chronicle the activities of both law enforcement & outlaws. The most notorious is "El Blog del Narco", the brainchild of two Mexican university students. Out of necessity they cloak themselves behind a shield of internet security measures. Though anonymous and well shielded, they cautiously avoid taking sides. Their lurid coverage is heavy with violent videos & gruesome photos, which doesn't detract from their excellent reporting.

The blog is in Spanish and if you try to use Google translator or their embedded translator all you get is a confusing, almost comical stream of fractured sentences. Tight security measures are a must, since the cartels have added a new sick twist to their arsenal of intimidation and fear. Now, they are going after those that criticize them on the social networks. Shutting down social media users by sowing terror is a new weapon in the cartel's arsenal. If web news sources can be forced to conform, then the criminal element can truly operate within a total information blackout. "El Blog del Narco" has been put on notice (although cartel killers also frequent the site)

The threat was made more real by the murder of 3 persons believed to have been targeted by their social media user names. A bodies of a young man and woman, showing signs of torture were hung from an overpass bridge in Nuevo Laredo. Narcomantas at the site warned that all "Internet busy bodies" would meet the same fate. The warning continued "We are on to you." Within a week the body of a young woman was found in the same area, her head was found propped up next to her lifeless body. "For those that don't want to believe"  was scrawled on a placard along with her user name (La Nena de Laredo) for "Vivo y Redes" a popular online forum.

The very idea of narco cyber experts eavesdropping on forums and taking down users names is enough to scare the fuck out of everyone involved. Is it possible that the cartels have computer experts deciphering passwords & tracing Internet Protocol addresses? It's certainly not outside the realm of possibilities. In this case, those killed probably had their identities compromised by people they trusted or through cartel agents working for internet servers, who passed on the information. Either way it's an ominous escalation by cartels, who already have citizens in the grip of panic.

Blogs on this side of the border operate freely, nonetheless the writers for "Borderland Beat" (most of whom either live in Mexico or travel across the border) use pseudonyms. The blog has active correspondents stretching from the Pacific to the Gulf on both sides of the border. "Borderland Beat" is written in English. The reporters do more than just translate the language, they also delve into the mindset behind the madness. The reports are straight forward, not much different than what you would find in American newspapers. "Borderland Beat" provides news, profiles, cartel histories, crime scene photos, cartel produced videos and news reports that are unmatched anywhere on the web.

"Exiled" is an alternative news blog that started in Russia. It's founders Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi were forced into exile in the U.S. "Exiled" covers a wide range of topics, but when it comes to Mexico, correspondent Pancho Montana is the man. Pancho lives in Monterrey and has a ringside seat as the cartels trade body blows. Montana has an insider's knowledge of the cartels, he holds nothing back, while firing off slanderous broadsides aimed primarily at Los Zetas. He writes in a slightly skewed style that is a hybrid of Lester Bangs' bombastic prose and Tony Montana dialogue lines. He has a Mexican's love for obscene language, cynicism and whether by design or not... he's funny as hell.

Here's the links to these website, I warn you... the images are gruesome! If you want news without pictures that make you hurl your breakfast, stick with Reuters and The BBC. I would also recommend The El Paso Times, The Houston Chronicle & The Los Angeles Times (all offer superb coverage of the violence in Mexico)