By Dane Schiller
An international group of online hackers is warning a Mexican drug cartel to release one of its members, kidnapped from a street protest, or it will publish the identities and addresses of the syndicate's associates, from corrupt police to taxi drivers, as well as reveal the syndicates' businesses.
The vow is a bizarre cyber twist to Mexico's ongoing drug war, as a group that has no guns is squaring off against the Zetas, a cartel blamed for thousands of deaths as well as introducing beheadings and other frightening brutality.
"You made a huge mistake by taking one of us. Release him," says a masked man in a video posted online on behalf of the group, Anonymous.
"We cannot defend ourselves with a weapon … but we can do this with their cars, homes, bars, brothels and everything else in their possession," says the man, who is wearing a suit and tie.
"It won't be difficult; we all know who they are and where they are located," says the man, who underlines the group's international ties by speaking Spanish with the accent of a Spaniard while using Mexican slang.
He also implies that the group will expose mainstream journalists who are somehow in cahoots with the Zetas by writing negative articles about the military, the country's biggest fist in the drug war.
"We demand his release," says the Anonymous spokesman, who is wearing a mask like the one worn by the shadowy revolutionary character in the movie V for Vendetta, which came out in 2006. "If anything happens to him, you sons of (expletive) will always remember this upcoming November 5."
The person reportedly kidnapped is not named, and the video does not share information about the kidnapping other than that it occurred in the Mexican state of Veracruz during a street protest.
Anonymous draws its roots from an online forum dedicated to bringing sensitive government documents and other material to light.
If Anonymous can make good on its threats to publish names, it will "most certainly" lead to more deaths and could leave bloggers and others open to reprisal attacks by the cartel, contends Stratfor, an Austin-based global intelligence company.
"In this viral world on the Internet, it shows how much damage could be done with just one statement on the Web," said Fred Burton of Stratfor, which published a report Friday that probes the implications of the cartel drawing the activists' ire.
Mike Vigil, the retired head of international operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said the Zetas must take Anonymous seriously.
"It is a gutsy move," Vigil said. "By publishing the names, they identify them to rivals, and trust me, they will go after them."
Transcript of Anonymous video
"Anonymous from Veracruz, Mexico, and the world, we want you to know that a member has been kidnapped when he was doing Paperstorm in our city.
We demand his release. We want the army and the navy to know that we are fed up of the criminal group Zetas, who have concentrated on kidnapping, stealing and blackmailing in different ways. One of them is charging every honest and hardworking citizen of Veracruz who busts their rears working day after day to feed their families.
We are fed up of journalists and newspapers of Xalapa, Córdoba and Orizaba because they are constantly crapping on honest authorities like the army and the navy.
We are fed up with taxi drivers, commanders and "police-zetas" officers of Xalapa, Córdoba, Orizaba, Nogales, Río Blanco and Camerinos... who are chickens and have made themselves the most loyal servants of these (expletive).
For the time being, we won´t post photos or the names ... of the taxi drivers, the journalists or the newspapers nor of the police officers, but if needed, we will publish them including their addresses, to see if by doing so the government will arrest them.
We can´t defend ourselves with a weapon, but if we can do this with their cars, houses, bars, brothels and everything else in their possession ... It won´t be difficult. We all know who they are and where they are.
(Images with sound of explosions)
You made a huge mistake by taking one of us. Release him. And if anything happens to him, you (expletive) will always remember this upcoming November 5th .
Knowledge is free. We are Anonymous. We are a legion. We don't forgive. We don't forget. You wait and see."