Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Death and Twitter in Reynosa


Borderland Beat posted by DD republished from Texas Monthly.

On Oct. 16, 2014,  Chivis posted on Borderland Beat the story of the apparent murder of  Dr. Maria del Rosario Fuentes in Reynosa, Tamaulipas and a follow up on Oct.27th.  The Dr. was active on several social media sites. using the name "Felina" and even though there were several messages via her Twitter acct. that she was kidnapped and murdered, there are several different theories as to why she was killed.  Her apparent death caused great dissension among the social media users and further complicated the difficult task of getting accurate and reliable news from the cartel war torn state.  

Texas Monthly sent reporter Eric Benson to Reynosa to find out how it affected social media in the city.
 
Photo by Adam Voorhes

A mysterious murder silences citizen journalists in Reynosa.    


The truth is an elusive, much disputed, and highly valuable commodity in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, a sprawling border city fifteen minutes south of McAllen. Residents witness a shootout that leaves dozens dead, and the government reports a minor disturbance. A businessman receives a call from “kidnappers” demanding immediate ransom, then discovers there is no actual kidnapping. Fireworks are mistaken for grenades. Grenades are mistaken for fireworks. The bloody conflict over turf and power that has taken the lives of tens of thousands of people isn’t the only war going on in Mexico. There is a second conflict over the story of what is happening—a clash that involves far fewer bullets but is no less real.

On a night early in December, Reynosa appears, at least for the moment, to be bustling but at peace. The main thoroughfare, Boulevard Hidalgo, is packed. Men lounge at roadside taquerias. After-work exercisers sweat through a Zumba class. “This used to be a ghost town,” Sergio Chapa, a Harlingen TV reporter, tells me as we zoom through the city in the back of a cab. After the Gulf cartel and its former enforcement wing, Los Zetas, went to war in 2010, Boulevard Hidalgo would often lie empty at night. Now life is returning to a semblance of normalcy. “It’s good to see it with traffic,” he says, staring out the window.

This particular night is uneventful, but Reynosans know better than to trust the calm and know much better than to trust stories about it. The Reynosa and Tamaulipas governments have an interest in understating the violence, and the Reynosa press essentially stopped reporting on the cartels years ago out of fear. (Reporters Without Borders ranks Mexico between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq on its World Press Freedom Index.) It has become common practice for organized crime to infiltrate Mexican newsrooms and instruct journalists on what they can and cannot write.

This black hole of credible information has led to the emergence of new voices. Over the past five years, one of Reynosa’s most trusted news sources has been the man whom Chapa and I have come to meet: an anonymous Twitter user known as Chuy.

Chuy, who tweets under the handle @MrCruzStar, meets us at a mall a few miles up Boulevard Hidalgo, and the three of us make our way by taxi to his house. In the cab, it’s all small talk. His Twitter activities, after all, are secret. But once we arrive safely at his home, we discuss how he helps coordinate a network of three thousand or so Twitter users who report disturbances throughout the city using the hashtag #ReynosaFollow.

On any given day or night, #ReynosaFollow collects dozens of posts warning of a shootout or a blockade or a column of armored vehicles. It’s essentially a 24-hour neighborhood watch for a city of nearly one million people, enabling citizens to know where they can—and can’t—travel safely. “If we didn’t have that information, the fear would make you stay at home,” Chuy says.

But just two months before, early on the morning of October 16, #ReynosaFollow became a vehicle for spreading fear rather than assuaging it. At 3:04 a.m., a tweet was posted from the account of a much-followed user known as Felina. “Friends and family, my name is María del Rosario Fuentes Rubio, I am a doctor, today my life has come to an end,” it read, in Spanish. Two more tweets arrived over the next five minutes: “I have nothing else to say but do not make the same mistake as I did. You do not win anything.
Photo of Dr. Fuentes in tweet (from Chiis story 10/16/14 on Borderland Beat)





 On the contrary I now realize that I found death in exchange for nothing. They are closer than you think.” The final tweet came at 3:11 a.m.: “Close your accounts, do not risk your families as I did with mine. I ask for forgiveness.” Embedded in that tweet were two photographs, one of a woman, presumably Fuentes, staring impassively into a camera, another of the same woman faceup on the ground, blood trickling from her nose, apparently executed.
Photo of  "Felina" in death that was in tweet ((from Chiis story 10/16/14 on Borderland Beat)
 In a matter of hours, Chuy noticed that accounts were disappearing by the dozen. “We lost reliable sources who self-censored out of fear,” he says. “Now, if something happens, we won’t have the same panorama we had before. We’ll be missing those eyes.”

The first tweet bearing the #ReynosaFollow hashtag appeared on February 23, 2010, at 1:15 p.m. Before the night was out, hundreds of tweets had appeared. A month earlier the Gulf cartel–Zetas split had taken place, and violent clashes were now routine throughout the city. At first, Chuy says, the authorities “tried to paint us as paranoid liars.” But the violence was so bad and the evidence on Twitter so irrefutable that soon the Tamaulipas and Reynosa governments began to issue warnings about “situations of risk” on their official online accounts.

The pioneering #ReynosaFollow users weren’t trained journalists, but they adopted a set of best practices that would fit comfortably in any newsroom. Wary of spreading rumors and misinformation, they privileged primary-source reports—“I’m seeing,” “I’m hearing,” “My mom called and told me.” But Chuy would treat even a purported eyewitness account skeptically; only after seeing three users describing the same event would he consider the information credible. Then he would try to confirm it himself before posting an update to his Twitter feed, which has more than 10,000 followers.

Early on, an inner circle of users forged a community, meeting at “tweet posadas,” essentially #ReynosaFollow barbecues. But social media is an open platform, and the drug war in Mexico has many actors with many agendas. As #ReynosaFollow grew, so did online currents of misinformation, deception, and sabotage. Anonymous accounts issued false reports via #ReynosaFollow, and bots—automatically generated accounts—published thousands of tweets bearing the hashtag, effectively burying citizen updates under an avalanche of erroneous information. Chuy also remembers seeing tweets from shadowy users who seemed to have “way too much information” about the inner workings of cartels. “They wanted us to become a mouthpiece for them,” he says.

In May of last year, after the government launched a new security strategy, which included a call for citizens to report anonymous tips on cartel members and criminal activities, another contingent made itself known. Chuy noticed a preponderance of new accounts repeating the same message: “Don’t be a coward. If you don’t help, this will never end,” and concluded that many of the accounts were, in fact, “sock puppets”: bogus citizen accounts that were created by law enforcement, military, or paramilitary interests. “The way they write, the phrases they use—it isn’t the local language or the language of the people,” Chuy tells me.

Sometimes the attacks were more personal. In December, after Chuy contributed to two articles on the website Diario19 documenting the possible paramilitary affiliation of the popular online “citizen journalist” group Valor Por Tamaulipas, a new account called Mr. Fashion Cruz (a riff on Chuy’s handle) started tweeting angrily at him. The account’s avatar was a photograph of the real-life Chuy, a chilling message that someone had identified the man behind @MrCruzStar. (Valor Por Tamaulipas launched its own attack in early January, decrying Chuy as secretly working with the state attorney general’s office and accusing him of exposing Felina’s identity before her death.)

Felina’s apparent murder occurred not only against this background of distrust but also at a time when the #ReynosaFollow community was tearing itself apart. In early 2014, according to a prominent user who goes by the Twitter name Don Alejo, a rift had developed over the direction of the group. One faction believed that the hashtag should restrict itself to informing citizens about dangerous activities. The other took a tone that aligned it closely with the state. “They wanted to denounce the criminals,” Don Alejo says, “and they got very aggressive.”

Don Alejo and Chuy were in the first camp. Felina was very much in the second. Don Alejo, who says he knew Felina personally, remembers her as “very active, very happy, very full of life.” But on Twitter her persona was ferocious. “She would say, ‘Que maten a esos perros’ (‘May they kill those dogs’).” Chuy saw Felina’s activism as crossing a perilous line. “She’d say, ‘This person does this and lives here.’ Her activities were a red flag.”

It is not clear exactly what happened to Felina. The dominant theory, first reported in the Mexican magazine Zócalo and advanced by Vice News, is that Dr. María del Rosario Fuentes Rubio, a 36-year-old general practitioner, was kidnapped after a child died in her care. Someone had wanted revenge—or at least answers—and had taken her as she left her hospital on the morning of October 15. While she was detained, Fuentes’s kidnappers—presumably affiliated with organized crime—sifted through the contents of her phone and discovered her Twitter activity. Then, says Don Alejo, “it was like killing two birds with one stone.”

Others have their doubts. Chuy’s collaborator on the Valor Por Tamaulipas articles, UT-Brownsville professor Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, says she had come to believe that Felina had paramilitary ties because of the specificity of her attacks on organized crime members and her close association with Valor Por Tamaulipas, to whose website she had contributed. 

The lack of any confirmed account of Fuentes’s death has even made Correa-Cabrera wonder whether she was really murdered. No body has been found, no details of the investigation have been released, and no criminal organization has claimed responsibility. “I would not say that [Fuentes] is not dead or that the assassination and kidnapping were not committed—that would be very irresponsible on my part,” she says. “But I have big doubts. This person who was always behind a computer—all we know about her is from other anonymous social media users. This fills me with questions, not with answers.”

Outside Chuy’s house, a festival is taking place to celebrate the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe. As fireworks pop around us, I ask Chuy what he makes of Correa-Cabrera’s suspicions. He says he too had noted some irregularities. For the first several years that Felina was on Twitter, Chuy regarded her activity as nothing out of the ordinary. But in late spring 2014, he observed a change. She began to post photographs of crime scenes that looked like they had been taken by someone inside the law enforcement perimeter, which led him to believe that she was now collaborating with military forces. “It was notable that she began a very active campaign of denunciations at the same time as the new security strategy for Tamaulipas was launched,” he says. But he doesn’t doubt that she was murdered. “Here in Reynosa, if you come up on a narco blockade, the first thing they do is check your phone—your photos, your contacts, your messages—so they probably found her that way,” he says.

Whatever the case, the grisly tweets of Felina’s apparent death have had the desired effect. Even Chuy says he has decreased his activity; he is now even more keenly aware of how each tweet offers a clue to anyone who wants to find him. Still, he tells me, this terrible event has had a silver lining. Some of the feuding members of #ReynosaFollow have been brought back together. “I tell two people when I’m going to meet someone at X place, and we use an app that lets someone monitor where we are,” he says. “We keep an eye on each other.”

After leaving his house, Chuy, Chapa, and I wend our way through the narrow streets and come upon rows of dancing children. They are twirling to a pulsing drumbeat while their families look on, taking pictures and drinking beer. Reynosa is still violent, but people are getting on with their lives. #ReynosaFollow, however imperfect, has helped them maintain normalcy.

Once Chapa and I hop into a cab to head back to the bridge that connects downtown Reynosa with Texas, our driver peppers us with questions about what we were doing in Mexico. During a lull in the conversation, he turns on his stereo, and the vehicle is soon vibrating with a strutting bass line. I look up and see the word “Sicario” (“Hitman”) flashing across the car’s digital display. The song is a narco hip-hop track, a triumphalist anthem boasting of the exploits of the Gulf cartel and their fearsome assassins.

“Are you afraid?” I had asked Chuy back at his house. “What would happen if the wrong people knew where you lived?”

He paused. “They always ask me if I’m afraid because of what I do, and I say I’m scared as a citizen. I’ve been robbed. Sometimes people die from stray bullets in a shootout. I think everyone is at risk in this city.”
The first 2 alleged bloggers killed in Tamaulipas (photo from Chivis BB story)

DD:The Texas Monthly reporter, Eric Benson, reported in a related article that even though it is difficult, the social media sources are not the only source of news out of Taumalipas.  There is a small cadre of Rio Grande Valley–based journalists who have played an important role in reporting on the drug war, writing about events and issues that their Mexican colleagues often simply cannot for fear of retribution.

 Breaking the Silence
 Five Rio Grande Valley–based reporters talk about covering the drug war in Mexico over the past decade.

 “Tamaulipas has always been a silent state,” Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a government professor at UT-Brownsville specializing in the Mexican drug war, told me last December. For decades, the state—which borders much of South Texaswas tightly controlled by both the Gulf Cartel and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Mexico’s dominant political organization—and neither entity had much interest in fostering a culture of transparency. When Tamaulipas exploded into violence in 2010, the culture of silence only got worse, with local newspapers afraid to print even news of traffic accidents for fear that a crash might involve someone affiliated with a cartel.

This left a near-total information void, but it was quickly filled. One of the most prominent new outlets was a community of Mexican citizens who turned themselves into de-facto correspondents, tweeting news of shootouts, blockades, and “situations of risk” under the hashtag #ReynosaFollow. But there was also a small cadre of Rio Grande Valley–based journalists who have played an important role in reporting on the drug war, writing about events and issues that their Mexican colleagues often simply cannot for fear of retribution.
Over three days last month, I spoke with a number of them about how they approached their dangerous, difficult, and often life-or-death beat.

THE WAR

Drug-related violence has long been a fixture of Tamaulipas, but the situation worsened in the mid-aughts and erupted in a terrible wave of shootouts, assassinations, and kidnappings in early 2010 as the Gulf Cartel went to war with its former enforcement wing, Los Zetas. 

Ildefonso Ortiz, 34, a reporter for Breitbart Texas. A soft-spoken six-foot-four former professional Muay Thai fighter, Ortiz retired from his combat career and began reporting on border violence after he “got married and wanted to do something safer:” In 2008, when I started working at the Brownsville Herald my beat was crime. I didn’t do the whole border stuff. The Herald is in the downtown part of Brownsville, and when I’d be in the office, sometimes I’d start to hear machinegun fire and grenades from across the river. I’d say, “That’s not normal.” But when I’d call over to Matamoros City Hall, they’d say, ‘Everything’s fine here. Come visit!” I’d call the police station and hear the same thing. Back then, you’d just grab a photographer or grab a camera and go over.

Enrique Lerma, 41, a correspondent for Univision, in Brownsville. Born in Matamoros, Lerma has spent nearly his entire life in the lower Valley and has worked the border beat since 2002: We used to go across at least once a week. If there was a shooting, we were there with our units and our equipment and everything. But everything started going different with the arrest of Osiel Cárdenas [the former leader of the Gulf Cartel, who was extradited to the U.S. in 2007], and especially since the fight between the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel. Different leaders were moving around trying to take over certain positions, and everything got risky for us. For the last five years, we’ve had to rely on sources in Mexico that we trust who can share with us photos or videos or information. But we can count with our fingers how many people we trust, especially in our business—reporters that are still doing their job.

Ortiz: Nobody in Mexico was reporting on the firefights. There were all these shootouts going on and everybody was flat-out lying. You’d pick up the paper in Mexico and it would be: “The mayor announces that we’re moving ahead in tourism and we’re paving new streets.”

Jared Taylor, 30, the Metro editor for the McAllen Monitor. An Iowan, Taylor has worked as a journalist in the Valley since 2007: In my experience that didn’t really become the case until 2009, 2010 when stuff got really bad. Until then, you’d see the Mexican reporters covering stuff and when we would go over, you’d feel safe because we had strength in numbers with all the Mexican reporters who were at a crime scene. But when the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas split and things got really nasty, I’d go to a crime scene, and I’d be the only reporter there. That’s not a safe place to be.

Ortiz: The media in Mexico is badly underpaid, so they’ll take money from other places. And in Tamaulipas—at least in Matamoros and Reynosa—you have what’s called a “link.” He’s basically the link between the crime reporters and the Gulf Cartel. So everybody that covers the crime beat in Matamoros and Reynosa they all talk to each other about what they can and cannot cover. The link will tell them what angle to take on things and what not to cover. There was a shootout in 2010 where a reporter was killed. I was able to confirm that that reporter was the link. Of course, he was highly praised for dying as a reporter, when in reality he was working with the cartel. I know their current link by name, but I’d rather stay away from that person. I don’t want face time with them. I don’t want to get any offers.

Reyna Luna, 50ish (“a woman never tells”), a correspondent for Estrella TV. A native of Monterrey, she reported from Mexico for various outlets until she moved to the Valley in 1989. When we met, she was on her way to report in Matamoros while wearing purple pumps: A lot of my colleagues in Mexico have gotten into trouble by selling information. If you have business with that guy, and that guy is my enemy, then you’re my enemy too. But for every journalist here at the border, it’s difficult to be doing this. It doesn’t matter if you’re here in the United States or in Mexico. They can threaten you here or threaten you there.

Lerma: Reyna, she goes across and rides along with the military. She likes that. I tell her, you’re too old for that, and she says, “Oh, no, I’m wearing this vest.”

Luna: I have been covering Tamaulipas for the last 25 years, and the criminals have tried to kill me I don’t know how many times. I’ve been kidnapped. I’ve had protection from the military outside my apartment. I’ve learned to use a weapon. You have to be very careful. At the end of the day, I value my life more than any story. Before I didn’t think that. I was a tonta—stupid! When you’re young, you have your ideals and you think you’re going to save the world. Now, I have fear, but I think someone needs to do this. And I do it with care. If the information is not confirmed, don’t write it. Don’t use one source of information or two sources of information, use three or more. I’m not releasing names. This has been my way to do things, and up to this moment here I am.

GETTING INFORMATION 

Knowledgeable sources are important to all good journalists, but this holds especially true in Reynosa and Matamoros, where official statistics and reports are often incomplete or nonexistent. The lack of transparency has led the reporters to rely on their longtime personal connections—Ortiz, Lerma, and Luna were all born in Mexico—to find sources they can trust.

Ortiz: Looking at it from a historical point of view, smuggling has been a part of life in this area for eighty years—and maybe more. At one point or another, a lot of the older families in this area have been involved in liquor, tobacco, grain, weapons—it’s just part of this area.
So pretty much anyone who is local is bound to know somebody. Oh, my neighbor is a used car salesman, and he knows this guy who used to launder money through another used car lot, and that guy might know this other guy who is in homebuilding. That’s pretty much how my sources have developed. And growing up here, like I did, some of your friends from school will end up being the good guys, some will end up being the bad guys.

Lerma: I was born in Matamoros, but raised in Brownsville. So I’m from both sides. My parents have good friends who used to be in public positions in Mexico, and I know them. So I have a little structure of sources, close sources. It’s not just people that are on the streets.

Ortiz: Before 2008, I was living in Ciudad Victoria, [the capital of Tamaulipas], and I was fighting Muay Thai professionally and I was teaching Brazilian jiu-jitsu and MMA. Doing that, I got to meet a lot of law enforcement guys—cops and cops who switched sides eventually. So I was able to kind of develop a little network there just because I was teaching them combatives. I didn’t plan on being a reporter. It just happened. My degree is in business.

Lerma: I have people in the Emergency Department, EMS, PGR [the Mexican Attorney General’s Office], and the morgue. I remember there was an incident at a jail, and the official line at the beginning was that there was a fight but it was already under control and nothing had happened. At around two in the morning, I heard that bodies were starting to arrive at the morgue. “Where are they coming from?” “Oh, the fight that they had during the day at the jail.” “What jail?” And then we started matching everything up, and we were able to go against that official report.

Luna: In Tamaulipas, I know a lot of people—a lot of people. I have friends on the official side. I have journalist friends who are covering it in a good way, but maybe they cannot say everything but they have information. But it’s bien difícil. I have sources that I’ve known for a thousand years, and that’s why I trust them. And sometimes they talk to me in code. Sometimes I don’t even know what they’re saying. Sometimes, this is like paranoia, you know?

Lerma: I used to have lots of exclusive stories through my sources. But my station, they don’t like too much the exclusive stories any more. They’re worried about being the one targeted. So this is something that I have done: I share information with our colleagues on this side, Ildefonso or The Monitor, so it can be a group of people posting the story at the same time. If I just run it as an exclusive story, my station says, “Why are you the only one having it. Do you trust your sources?” When I share it, they’re like, “Oh, you’re talking about the story the newspaper is running?” “Yeah, the same one.” It’s a different way to work. They want to see it in a different media outlet so they can be on the safe side.

Ortiz: There’s no real way to know how bad things really are. If you look at murder statistics from Matamoros, they’ll say, “Oh, there’s eighty dead for the year.” And I’ll say, Really? We did a story and the AP did a story about the cartels picking up their bodies after the shootouts. There’s not going to be a registro or any sort of paperwork for that.

Taylor: Beyond that, Tamaulipas has always had a culture of no transparency. When Ciudad Juárez was getting all the headlines [for having the highest murder rate in the world], part of what helped feed into that was the local and the state police there actually did keep pretty good statistics on body counts. That just doesn’t exist in Tamaulipas. Absent those statistics or any semblance of statistics, when you send a reporter in, you just have a bunch of color, but you can’t quantify it. That’s where you see a lot of roadblocks and a lot less coming out of Tamaulipas as far as stories.

CROSSING THE BORDER

As the violence spiked in Tamaulipas in 2010, many news outlets in the Valley forbid their reporters from crossing into Mexico. In order to continue reporting, some journalists snuck across, went on their days off, or relied more heavily on their Mexico-based sources to be their eyes and ears.
Sergio Chapa, 39, a reporter for KGBT, the CBS affiliate in Harlingen. Chapa grew up in Austin but reported from the Valley for seven years before recently taking a job at the San Antonio Business Journal. He remains an active member of the #ReynosaFollow community: At our station, we can’t cross the border. We’re not insured—neither our equipment nor us as individuals. We can only go on our off time.

Taylor: We haven’t actively covered the scene over there for years. At our paper, there’s not an outright ban on going to Mexico, but if you’re going to send a reporter over for any reason, it has to be sent all the way up to the CEO of the company.

Ortiz: Yeah, when I was with The Monitor, I used to sneak out every once in a while on my own time to visit friends, family—and talk to people.

Lerma: I go to Mexico on my personal time. I’m not afraid of anything. But our station says you can’t go and cover any stories because of the insurance, the policy—whatever. They don’t want to be responsible if anything happens. If you want to go across on your personal time it’s up to you, but you’re not representing the station.

Ortiz: It used to be that if you ran into some trouble over there, you could be like, “Hey, I’m a reporter from the U.S., I’m going to make my way back home. Bye.” But now these guys last a few months or less in their positions. You have guys in their twenties taking orders from a guy in his thirties, and who knows what they’re going to do? Older, more experienced cartel guys don’t want that attention. The younger guys—they might not be there by the end of the month, so they won’t care.

Lerma: I was telling Ildefonso, we don’t have to cross anymore. All these cartel members have been in U.S. court. All their family members are there. All their guards are here.

Ortiz: In 2010, the Feds caught “El Apache” [cartel leader Oscar Castillo Flores] over here in Brownsville and charged him with illegal reentry. At his trial, I was the guy with the notepad in the courtroom, and he was there giving me the stink eyes. It was kind of unnerving to have a guy known for beheadings staring you down. He only got two years, and after those two years, I ran into him at a kids’ restaurant at the salad bar. I looked up, and I was like, ‘Shit!’ and he just smiled at me. A couple weeks later they killed him in Mexico.

Luna: Someone sent me preachers to give me una bendición—to pray for me and give me a blessing. The preachers came here to Edinburgh to say, “I know that you’re going to do something very dangerous, and you’re going to die maybe, so we have to give you our bendición.” The strange thing is that I was in a place where I was not going as journalist. [The cartels] know who you are. They know where you live.

THE END?

Many in Tamaulipas say that the worst of the drug war is over. But in an area where official statistics are widely distrusted, many reporters remain skeptical of claims about a decrease in violence as they continue to see its grisly reality up-close.

Chapa: There was a time when that kind of stuff was really prominent and in really high demand online. People just wanted to know about it. I remember in 2010, 2011, we’re talking about throwing grenades at police stations, rocket launchers—all kinds of crazy stuff. And you’re like, ‘Damn, this is happening right south of us, and here we are eating at Chili’s and going to Whataburger.’ But there’s not the volume of gun battles that there was back in say 2012 or 2011 or 2010. And now, with these stories, the writing’s been on the wall so long it’s kind of faded, you know? They don’t get the same interest. You can tell the drug war is kind of winding down. [Ildefonso] might tell you different.

Ortiz: Look, the difference is that now people over there have gotten used to the violence. So they’re starting to move on with their normal lives. But from the investigative part, if you start poking around over there, you’re going to find ugly things. And that’s where [Chapa] and my views differ. Yeah, it’s great to go have tacos over there. But if you’re going to be over there asking questions and snapping photos, it’s not going to be pretty, and it’s not going to be safe.

Lerma: My station is changing a lot. Sometimes they say, “Change topics, Enrique. I don’t want to hear about the cartels until maybe next week.” And I’ll say, “But this is a good story.” And it’s “no, no, no, you already ran a couple stories.” But every day there is a shooting. Every day somebody is being found shot execution-style. Every day. So nothing is changing. What’s changing on my side is that I don’t do a daily story about it anymore.

Ortiz:  I just happened to be out in Reynosa visiting some friends at a barbecue on a Sunday night in 2013 when all hell broke loose. It was the mother of all firefights. You had two factions of the Gulf Cartel fighting it out. It was a massacre. I saw bodies everywhere. If you were by Boulevard Hidalgo, you could see forty trucks going down one side and another thirty trucks coming down the other side and clashing in the middle—four or five gunmen in each truck spraying the hell out of the streets. Grenades here, grenades there. Something that you know you see it and you still can’t believe it. As I was writing that story, I was tearing up. It was the altruism of the people that got to me. In the Walmart, they were holding people back, and saying don’t go out. In the mall and the movie theater, just a random guy was blocking the doors—Get down, don’t go outside now. That’s what the police should be doing, but it was just normal citizens. Sometimes you lose your faith in humanity covering this, but that restored a bit of it.

DD;  The biggest thing Mr. Benson left out of his reporting how the news is aquired from the border is the readers of Borderland Beat that send us stories and tips about what is happening which we publish here on Borderland Beat.

17 comments:

  1. DD great post.
    I have always had questions. But, I was 99% convinced that she was killed after communicating with her former partner. That said, because there was no body means little in Mexico where 25-100k bodies are buried in fosas. or disposed of by fire or other means.

    The other thing I would like to mention, Chuy is not trusted by the large majority of Tamaulipas people, rumors of collusion with the government. I don't know about that, but saw he was quik to put the message out that Felina was not killed. He was criticized by popular bloggers vxt and meny times etc.

    Her family maintains they have not heard from her.

    and lastly the narco kid story was panned long ago, it is not the type of medicine she practiced. BTW she was a humanitarian as well, she provided medical care to impoverished people.

    She was sloppy for sure however.

    one of our long time reporters was in the group of reynosa twitterers, and was one of the authors of the manifesto sent out and published in many newspapers, I think in 2011.

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    1. I remember rise on BB.

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    2. lol....well I remember rise also,I hated that he did not come back, he lurks though....but it wasn't him.

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  2. This isn't new news here. Bloggers have been killed many times over the course of the drug war.nfod example the one for vpt that was killed CDg on video

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  3. Great reporting. The Lady Luna has guts. God Bless. I do not go to Mexico anymore. I spent most of my life there, safer in Brownsville, but the upper valley is wild with shootouts.

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  4. I recall in 2009 or 10 a bb reporter disappeared. a female. I read in Tx newspaper an interview with the owner of bb, and he said so. what happened in that case? I can't remember her name, sorry, but she was a reporter who I believe she lived in Matamoros

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  5. Good to hear that there is a paramilitary force operating in Tamaulipas. There is no hope for the police or the government - it's up to a large well armed ruthless band of assassins to clean it up. That's what it took in Colombia and that's what it will take in Mexico.

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    1. In Colombia the auc/ self defense groups became a cartel in its own right. Same thing happened with las viagras. That's the problem once these groups gain the power they see that they can make millions with the illegal drug trade. So Colombia might not be the best example

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  6. Set up websites in the states with all the security required so people from Mexico can report crime. How hard is that?

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  7. They caught the supposed plaza boss of los Z en Llera and he looks about 14 ?
    They can say anything they want"State police catch The plaza jefe of Llera for Los Zetas"
    Who knows ?

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  8. les dije k r-1 estaba vivo en monterrey haciendo desmadre.. el wey esta utilizando a 98 para desmadra el poco mando que tienen los golfos.. el 98 simplemente es un peon de R-1.. y los k estan financiando a r-1 son los sinaloenses.. por anos los sinaloenses han querido una pata adentro de tamaulipas..los zetas y sinaloenses ya tienen tregua (aunque unos bajos mando no la respetan alli esta.. por que creen que laredo hasta san anto hasta houston esta llegando chingos de tecata blanca y hielo ya ay tregua todos estan haciendos feria... alrato que se junten todos lo carteles mexicanos bien y se dejen de mamadas hasta van a corta los colombianos del pastel. desde k cayo lazcano los zetas se alivianaron el era el sanguinario no los trevinos.. allis les dejo que hagan su tarea) Y dejaran k los golfos se den en la madre.. luego los zetas tomaran posesion de reynosa (reyno era como n.laredo para los zetas era una gran base de operacion para ellos) y los sinaloenses finalmente moritos(que pensaria el Sr. Nepomuceno el verdadero padrino y Don Juan y Don Osiel) .. PENDEJOS LO GOLFOS. ellos mismos se estan enpinando tomando la verga mientras los de mas hacen feria riendose de ellos.. CDG=GRAN VERGUENZA DE TAMAULIPAS.. tienen buena propaganda pero al final son una bola de SKWINKLES.. MUERTOS DE HAMBRE.. MEKITOS.. Y CAGADOS QUE SE LA TIRAN DE JEFES...y el k va abrir plaza a reyno sera el TOMMY y r-1 en moros.. p

    en mi humilde opinion creo que unos golfos le pediran chiche a los zetas xke la verdad ningun verdadero tamaulipeco dejara que los sinaloenses den ordenes en tamaulipas pero bueno eso lo dejo para otro tiempo primero vamos a ver que va suceder de todo este pedo

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    1. Estas bien pendejo el r 1 esta muerto y ese 98 es un nadie.los zetas estan acabados tienen k mamar de los otros carteles para sobrevivir.

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    2. 7:45 PM
      Is saying he told people R1 was alive and is some cause of this fighting bankrolling and using Juanito 98?That CDS has sort of truce with Z and since Lazca went down the murderous videos and crazy violence has stopped,it was Lazca the loony tune violent one not the Trevino,after storm the Z take Reyno? R1 covets Moros?CDS have foothold in Tatamaulipas thru R1?
      Personally we,i dont believe it,think it is what it is.CDG hurting for money and they all fighting over what there is,and Zetas couldn't try a move if they wanted to,Zetas are in no position,they laying low,they basically lost Zaca and other places?

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  9. Her eyes express such sadness. RIP Ms. Rosario

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  10. Excellent report. I greatly enjoyed reading their accounts. As much as people complain in the US about the authorities & crime, at least they can openly complain and report without being massacred.

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    1. I agree with your comment. I also enjoyed this read. Brian Williams made up accounts, lies...about certain stories he reported on. These reporters, are reporting on facts, things they know to be true..and are taking a hell of a chance doing it. If ol Brian really wants to experience some action with gunfire, a scary moment on a helicopter..let him come on down to Mexico, do some reporting down there on crime and punishment. I have more trust in BB reporting, journalist... than I do any of the other news agencies out there. It's never been, who had the "biggest anchor desk", but the biggest desire to get the truth out there!

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