Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

Mexico Drug Cartels use Gory Videos to Spread Fear

Thursday, August 5, 2010 |

By Mica Rosenberg
Reuters

Powerful drug cartels are increasingly using gruesome videos of executions and interrogations to intimidate their rivals, police and an already terrified public in Mexico's vicious drug war.

The drug gangs, battling for control of lucrative smuggling routes into the United States, have long attached handwritten notes to victims they dump in public as a way to scare rival gangs and pesky state officials.

But they are now airing more and more of their dirty work and threats on blogs or Web sites like YouTube, and bullying Mexican media into putting their gory tapes on television for wider play.

The aggressive media strategy raises new questions about whether President Felipe Calderon's war on drugs is making any headway in weakening the gangs and in reining in a drug trade worth up to $40 billion a year in Mexico alone.

About 28,000 people have been killed since Calderon took office in late 2006 and sent thousands of federal police and troops to crack down on the drug cartels.

While the gangs began using the bloody videos to send a message to police and rivals several years ago, they have become more common in recent months as turf wars escalate across the country, experts and police say.

The format of the tapes is often the same: captives, many bloodied from beatings, are tied up, blindfolded and posed in front of a draped sheet in an anonymous setting.

Surrounded by heavily armed captors in ski-masks and guided by questioning from an off-camera voice, the captives are forced to confess allegiances to cartels or corrupt officials. Many are then murdered on-camera.

The most explicit videos, when detected, are usually removed by major web sites like YouTube but stay posted on "narco-blogs" run by anonymous administrators.

In one video, a man with a black eye is tethered to a chair in his underwear and appears to be strangled to death with a tourniquet by his captors. There is a "Z" scrawled across his chest, for Zetas, a spinoff of the Gulf Cartel.

In another video, a man is slowly beheaded with a knife.

IMPUNITY, FREE PUBLICITY

"The message is always the same: be afraid," said Maria Guadalupe Licea, head of the government prosecutor's office in Baja California state, home to the violent city Tijuana.

Licea said the use of new technologies and media is part of a spiraling cycle of violence in which ever more shocking attacks inspire copycat killings.

Authorities say that the videos, while graphic, are often little use in tracking down drug gangs.

A spokesman for Mexico's federal police said the apparent murders cannot be investigated until an official complaint is raised and there is no way to prove the videos are real.

No one has been arrested yet for posting the videos.

There are signs the cartels are taking their propaganda war to a new level.

In a frightening development last week, traffickers kidnapped four journalists in northern Mexico and pressured their employers to air 15 minutes of videos showing allegedly corrupt police and rivals being interrogated as a condition for release.

"It is free publicity. A company has to pay thousands of pesos to promote their products. But for these criminal groups ... it just takes a threatening telephone call or grenades chucked at a television station," said Javier Oliva, a security expert at Mexico's National Autonomous University.

The push for the spotlight poses a new danger for journalists in Mexico, already one of the world's most dangerous countries for reporters. More than 30 journalists have been killed here since Calderon took power.

While the kidnapped journalists were still being held, TV anchors aired public messages condemning the seizures, and Mexico's largest broadcaster Televisa canceled a news programs in protest.

"The seizure of our peers and colleagues represents in a wider sense the hijacking of the entire media," Televisa host Denise Maerker said on air. "The risk is that in the future many other media outlets will find themselves in this same delicate situation."

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32 Borderland Beat Comments:

Anonymous said...

The United States is finally reporting on this mayhem
Per (www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_15679980?source=rss)
El Paso Times “Expert says violence by cartels may intensify

Anonymous said...

The day Mex gets the same attention that Lindsey Lohan's incarceration gets on CNN and FOX is the day the US finally starts paying attention to its neighbor south of the border.

Juarez car bombing barely got a blurb.

Valentina Isabella said...

Anonymous (8.5.10 4:52 AM):

I completely agree, there were immigration reform issues pending, an oil spill and as you mentioned bombings in Juarez, but they managed to cover Lohan's hearings.

It says a lot about the media's priorities in the U.S., and frankly, it's unfortunate.

Anonymous said...

fuck the Zetas and all their family members and every one associated with them. God has an iron fist that hes going to throw across your face and people everyone knows that if the U.S.A. was to get involved, it would get ugly and then it would come into the U.S and we dont want that. As bad and dumb as it sounds, the best thing to do is just to legalize the drugs. It's just like the 30s and 40s when booze was illegal in the US. You had your organized crime and gangs, but everything seemed to get better once we legalized the booze. Your going to have your druggies, but they chose that life. Thats just my opinion. But everything has their consequences, and every Zeta has a target on their forehead, and i would do everything to line them up one by one and put two in their head but i Cant.

Their will come a day when Mexico is back to it's beautiful self, but it's only going to get worse before it gets better. Trust God and believe in yourself, that's all that Mexicans can do

Anonymous said...

Is it any wonder states like Arizona want to tighten our borders before the sick socipathic killers in Mexico bring their tactics to the U.S.

Time to really start securing our borders and finding out how many mexican criminals are in the U.S. Si Se Puede !!!!

Anonymous said...

Estoy de acuerdo con El. Yo pienso que todo los mal hechores deben estar afuera de Los Ustados Unidos.

Valentina Isabella said...

Not all Mexican, and Central American for that matter, migrants are violent (or in your terms, sick socipathic killers) criminals.

And for the record, according to crime statistics, the following cities are the most dangerous in the United States:

#1 Most Dangerous City- New Orleans, Louisiana
Although a very popular tourist destination, New Orleans is the most dangerous city in the entire United States. It is ranked as number 1 in terms of murders, 2 in terms of burglary. It also ranks in the top 20 of auto theft and assault.

#2 Most Dangerous City- Camden, New Jersey
New Jersey may be home to some of the safest cities in the United States, but it also claims the second most dangerous city. Camden is ranked as number 1 in terms of robbery and holds rankings in the top 15 for murder, auto theft, rape, and assault.

#3 Most Dangerous City- Detroit, Michigan
Michigan is another state that has some of the safest cities in the United States, but Detroit is widely known for being dangerous. Detroit is ranked as number 2 in terms of both assault and auto theft. It is also in the top 15 for assault, murder, and robbery.

#4 Most Dangerous City- St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is another very popular city in terms of tourism, but it can a very dangerous place. It ranks as number 3 in terms of assault, 4 in robbery, 5 in auto theft, and 8 in murder.

#5 Most Dangerous City- Oakland, California
Oakland, California definitely has a reputation for being a dangerous city, and with good reason. It is ranked as number 1 in terms of auto theft. It also is ranked number 3 in robbery and number 14 in both assault and murder.

#6 Most Dangerous City- Flint, Michigan
Flint is ranked as the number 1 city for both assault and burglary and number 6 in rape. It is also the twenty-first city for both murder and robbery.

#7 Most Dangerous City- Gary, Indiana
Gary, Indiana takes is the second city for murders, but ranks relatively low in other aspects of crime compared to the other cities.

#8 Most Dangerous City- Birmingham, Alabama
Birmingham, Alabama ranks as the number 3 city in terms of rape. It also ranks high burglary (7), murder (10), and robbery (10).

#9 Most Dangerous City- Richmond, California
The second California city in the top ten list of most dangerous cities in the United States ranks as number 3 in terms of auto theft and number 5 in terms of murder.

#10 Most Dangerous City- North Charleston, South Carolina
North Charleston ranks as number 2 in terms of rape and 11 in terms of robbery. It is also number 16 in terms of both assault and murder.

------------------------------------------------

Obviously, none the above mentioned cities are in ARIZONA. And the crime rate in the rest of the United States is far higher than it is in any city in Arizona.

What Gov. Brewer and Sheriff Arpaio are doing in AZ is terrible, for starters Brewer is only interested in votes, so this is strictly political, it has nothing to do with crime or drug trafficking. Arpaio is beyond racists, from what he states to his actions, he's clearly racists. And both, Brewer and Arpaio, have you used 'crime' in their state as an excuse to support SB1070 and the amendments made thereafter.

I've never seen the Grand Canyon and I don't plan to see it in my life time, because I will NEVER step foot in Arizona.

dudoso said...

I think the US MSM media, public, and government will eventually wake up to the depth and scope of the threat posed by the Narco-Cartels...when it's too late.

Kevin said...

Hi Valentina, to be fair...isn't Phoenix, AZ now the leading kidnapping city in the U.S.?

I hear you labeling people racist, but what exactly do you think these border states should do to maintain their security to fight cartel intrusions, illegal immigration, and the street gangs that pop up along with it?

I'm not trying to antagonize you, just want to see your point of view.

Valentina Isabella said...

Kevin:

Where are you getting your information from?

Fox news, which by the way is highly unreliable, or the GOP? Fox news is for Republicans, just as MSNBC and sometimes CNN is for Democrats.

Please, for your sake and mine, google the following: "Most Dangerous Cities in the United States 2010"

That's where I got my stats from, not from Fox news or anything along those lines.

If I were you, I'd try reading a book sometime, it may help you out in the future. And by that, I mean any boook.

Anonymous said...

Here's the real point which gets neglected by those who like to throw out crime statistics:

Top Ten U.S. Judicial Districts for 2009 by Criminal Defendants:
(United States Attorneys’ Annual Statistical Report for Fiscal Year 2009)

Southern Texas ---- 8,801
Western Texas ---- 8,435
Southern California ---- 5,554
Arizona ---- 5,155
New Mexico ---- 3,769
Central California ---- 2,581
Southern Florida ---- 2,514
Southern New York ---- 1,959
Middle Florida ---- 1,780
Eastern Virginia ---- 1,485

Anonymous said...

Kevin: I understand your point, but why be "agressive" to the bad things... its just bad -vs- bad.. it'll never get us anywhere..

Valentina: i totally agree with you, most of the serial killers , if NOT ALL OF THEM are from the US...

I live in the border, you have no idea how bad it is right now! you cant even drive without the fear of getting shot, or having a gun pointed in your head, or someone demanding you to get out of your vehicle cus they want it! .
Even worse, if you're a mother and carry your kids, they are in the greatest danger ever! WHY? because they're threating us that if theres another Z dead, there will be 5 children dead!

Imagine that? imagine what it is to live in this border, it is the #1 border in all the US .
LAREDO TX -NUEVO LAREDO. it has become a nightmare!

i seriously think that instead of laws like the one in arizona. politicians should try to help MEXICO! not go against the people that are running away from this hell hole!

Anonymous said...

Throw around? Look who's talking.

Where did you get your stats from? I'd like a source and I don't mean the make believe one in your head, a real source.

Where's the link?

Valentina Sucks Bad said...

Mexico DC is the leading kidnapping city in the world, Phoenix is a close second...this is not in dispute. Anyone who challenges crime in Az by illegals is simply bias and refuses to acknowledge truth. However, you can google the suject and pick either DOJ, ICE, or scores of conservative and liberal publications that confirm the fact. Figures vary depending on which group calculates, for instance the FBI has different calculations depending on city size and crime per capita. there are two groups of illegals one peace loving, hard working Mexicans just trying to survive in a horrific economy and violent society that now exists in Mx. Then there is another much smaller group that fills the border states prisons covicted of violent crimes or drug offenses. And if you google a CARTEL Map of united states, or even click on CARTEL MAPS on this blog you will see the heavy presence of cartels who really have not commenced..yet...with the heavy violence we are seeing in MX. They will recruit using the same tactics as Mx and draw from gangs here. If we as a nation do not wake up and strike offensively we will pay the price as we strike defensively. This is my opinion, I am entitled to one, pure conjecture as for the future, but based on good info. I don't want to argue I hate to see the same people slamming everyone else that has an opinion, it is a gross waste of time and opportunity to ask questions and share information. That Valentina lady is offensive attacking not only the opinion but making it personal "you must watch Fox, or read a book sometime" I am breaking my rule now and going to say, get a job, get out of the house, make a difference. there is not a time I do not see several comments from you no matter how many days I haven't logged on. You seem intelligent and care about the subject but also closed minded, wearing blinders, and just sit in wait to attack the next person that has a different opnion. Grow up. You need not respond though if it means you may seize if you do not...be my guest though I will not read it.

Anonymous said...

When the war on drugs in Mexico is tamed and calmed down,
who will take over from the Mexican Cartels?
the Drug use is still as ravenous as always,
someone will step in and fill that gap, if American Gangsters get as powerful as the Mexican Cartels got, then blood will flow freely in the United States as it now does in Mexico.

Anonymous said...

To: "Valentina Sucks Bad said... "

I must say, your comment is totally wacked, you say you are entitled to your opinion then slamm Valentina for having one! Agree or not, she has an opinion, I have not heard her be disrespectful to anyone, why can't you just debate your shit without resorting to rhetoric that serves no purposes without getting so defensive????

She is not attacking, she is debating, on the other hand, you took it upon rourself to do what you are preaching not to do, listen to yourself for once.

Now who can bebate these issues without resorting to personal attacks against others who do not agree, or is your side with no substance?????

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:37

The Source WAS cited....try reading it again! I know it's difficult for you but try it again. I'll give you a clue :)

(United States Attorneys’ Annual Statistical Report for Fiscal Year 2009)

Google that and read the report.

Kevin said...

Hi Valentina,

to answer your question, no I did not get my "facts" from Fox "News". I can't stand them. Funny you assumed that's where I got it.

I'm not saying you're wrong about the most dangerous cities, I'm merely questioning what you have to say about Phoenix having such a high kidnapping rate.

And thank you for your book reading suggestions. I actually read quite alot =) (surprised?) I've been meaning to read Charles Bowden's books on Juarez.

I told you I am not trying to antagonize you, but yet you make assumptions that I'm a right-wing fox "news" non-reading nutjob.

So how are we going to figure out solutions if all we ever do is put people down who question us?

And I do agree with you that most migrants are not bad people, in fact I think they are some of the most genuine hard-working people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Ovemex said...

I certainly don't think Pheonix has the 2nd highest kidnapping index in the WORLD, but the increase in these cases has been quite notable over the past few years.

On the other hand, an L.A. Times story in February 2009 quoted Phoenix police saying that most every victim and suspect is connected to the drug smuggling world, usually tracing back to the Mexican state of Sinaloa.

Phoenix police say many come from the Sinaloan towns of Guasave, Leyva, and Los Mochis.

Anonymous said...

Phoenix has the second highest kidnapping and home invasion in the world but just as in Mx City most are drug related. Seems only those not living in Phoenix or Az do not want to believe it, but it is true they average one per day. The drug connection is the point. Anyone want to buy a nice home in Maryvale? (Phoenix)
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aG2lsb4EHTcc

and to Kevin...you must not delay read Bowden's Murder City I could not put the thing down until the end...

Surf City So Cal said...

Another good book DRUG WAR ZONE ( Howard Campbell)
I am half way through and find this is an excellent book exploring the narcoeconomy and explains the complexity of the economic layers of the narco business. It also underscores the economic power of narco and how if it could be abolished MX is now so economically dependent on its resourses without the revenue it would collapse. This is also stressed in Bowden's MURDER CITY. DRUG WAR ZONE is from university of Texas press but availble trhough amazon, both newly published so are current

kevin said...

wow thank you for the recommendations guys/gals...I have been wanting to read them...common sense would say the Narco is entrenched like the stain that just won't wash away...but the harsh reality doesn't set in until someone sets you straight about it...

that's why i come to this site and thank its contributors and commentors..

if only we could foster more compassion in people, maybe there would be less greed, unnatural deaths, and destruction.

the answer to the riddle looks like it has many layers of complexity inter-depending on each other though.

Valentina Isabella said...

Kevin:

I apologize that I'm a bit defensive when it comes Arizona, it's certainly a complex topic that people feel differently about. Frankly, I don't appreciate when politicians use crime as an excuse to treat, in this case Latins (or Hispanics), a group of people differently.

For instance, if I were to travel to Arizona, I would have to carry my documents on me at all times, regardless of the fact that I'm an American citizen. Simply, because I obviously look Latin. And we all know that with or without the injunction, SB1070 will somehow be enforced.

That's why I've decided never to go to Arizona and I'll talk my family out of going, in case they intend to go. I don't want to contribute a cent to the state of Arizona. And that's my personal opinion.

And I stand by my stats.

David said...

"For instance, if I were to travel to Arizona, I would have to carry my documents on me at all times, regardless of the fact that I'm an American citizen. "

You should take some time to read the SB1070 bill. Your statement is incorrect or a reflection of paranoia. The local law enforcement in Arizona and all states can and do already enforce federal immigration law, which is all SB 1070 is.

BTW all the high crime cities you metioned are ones that have adopted liberal progressive practices where people's right to defend themselves have been taken away. These cities are the closest thing to places like Mexico and Central/South America in regards to not respecting natural rights and being Cities of People rather than Cities of Laws (Social Justice as opposed to Equal/True Justice).

Liberal Progressive Policies == High Crime.

If you do never come to Arizona, I thank you.

Anonymous said...

David, exactly the point. SB1070 is NOTHING new. Arizona is restating Federal Law in SB1070. The people who scream loudest about it being a anti-mexican or anti-latino law do so because they only listen to the rhetoric of the ACLU or La Raza. The law NEVER had a racial component in it.

And I say this with all humility that those who want to boycott Arizona have NEVER read SB1070 and they really do not know why they are upset. But they heard it from a family member who heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who got some information off some politically based website, so it must be true.

SB1070 cites the Federal law that it is simply reiterating. If you want to boycott Arizona for SB1070, you must ALSO boycott your Federal government because SB1070 is the federal law re-emphasized at the state level. The federal lawsuit against Arizona will backfire because it will eventually show that all SB1070 does is restate federal law. The feds will have to sue themselves then.

What people also do not understand is that boycotting Arizona will only hurt the latino population there.

Valentina Isabella said...

To David:

I will entertain your commentary this one time and never again, because anyone that states the following: "Liberal Progressive Policies = High Crime," is beyond ignorant. At least Kevin was objective, and I felt badly about questioning his intellect, but you, David, you seem extremely narrow-minded and I feel sorry for you and your family.

I did read SB1070 (several times) and I understand why the judged ruled the way she did and why there's an injunction in place.

How exactly do you suppose that local law enforcement officers are suppose to randomly stop individuals based on reasonable suspicion that the individual is an illegal immigrant, other than by appearances, of course?

There have already been several cases where people have been illegally seized by the local police in Arizona, all the while, they were, in fact, American Citizens.

And I know that SB1070 is being illegally enforced. And for the record, local law enforcement agencies are not equipped to understand, let alone, enforce federal statutes.

As an American Citizen and a tax payer (because unlike some 'conservatives,' I do pay my taxes), I feel very passionate about individual rights.

And for the record, the last time I read the Constitution, the Second Amendment, still stands, so your statement regarding "where people's right to defend themselves have been taken away," is completely untrue, and frankly, pure garbage. Perhaps you should take your time to read the U.S. Constitution properly and then think about the kind of misinformed statements you generate.

And thank you, for reinforcing the reason why I would never visit such a backward thinking state like Arizona.

Kevin said...

Valentina, no apologies necessary =) You are quite a firecracker and firm in your beliefs. That is to be commended.

I'm not sure where I stand myself on SB1070. And by the looks of it, plenty are taking a stand on both sides. I'm torn on the matter for humanity reasons but there is also that security element involved.

I guess I'm here to gather information and be informed. And maybe make some sense out of all this =)

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to burt any ones bubble that believes the violence is not in America but its here and it isn't going to get. Any better and the media defenately has to play a huge role in letting the American public know what is really going on.......

Anonymous said...

SB1070 is challenged because it does not incorporate the federal immigration strategy or policy. Local authorities do not have the authority to deport, so anyone and everyone they round up will have to be turned over to the Feds, who will then have to find a place to house, feed and keep until the deportation occurs. So yes, in general, SB1070 reiterates federal law, but it does so without the structure in place to enforce action, any action after capture. Kevin, you have the most intellgigent outlook on this particular blog. Valentina, Kevin is right, you are passionate about this, don't let it override your reason. You will never convince others if you try to do so by attacking. Your ideas are important but it is far more effective to persuade than to argue.

Anonymous said...

Iwant my Mexican friends in America to be able to go to the market with no fear of Drug Cartel retaliations,when I am stopped I hav to show my license.no problem.Our American officers and border patrol hav died fighting the cause and a large majority hav Hispanic last names,Mexicans this is your people,I am angry & I am white.I do not understand why you are not angry for your people dieing here in America at our borders..Let us all work together to secure our borders/u think it be bad now? If drugs in Mex are legalized,this whole Mexican problem will storm America..it will be a perfect storm..& we will stand in front of the camera with tears running down our face saying "I just want to go to the market"

Anonymous said...

To Valentina, I am a US citizen and a Latino and have NEVER had any issues with police stopping me without reason. What gives you the impression that you do not have to carry identification with you? I have to have a driver's license when I drive or write a check, a passport when I travel, a student ID if I go to college, a birth certificate to request a passport, and so on...if you go overseas, you cannot check into a hotel room without a passport or cedule, in some countries you have to show your cedule to buy with a credit card, etc. Do you henstly believe we can just roam around the country with no identification? Are you for or against secured borders? Do you want your family to be safe and continue to enjoy the benefits of being protected by honest law enforcement, or do you not care if the corruption of law officials in Mexico comes here to the states? If you are against supporting law and order then the lifestyle of corruption and blood on the border will come here too and those who oppose efforts to secure the borders and protect our safe way of life cannot then demand safety from the state.

Anonymous said...

Wonder why the American media is giving the cartel wars in Mexico precious little coverage? Because their darling in the White House said weeks ago that the border area is safer then it's been in a long time.

How would it look so close to the campaigns for the mid-terms starting to have a media darling humiliated like that?

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