Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Phone Calls Give Clues on Mexico Drug Gang Propaganda Tactics

By Patrick Corcoran

A series of recorded phone conversations between alleged members of the Mexican drug gang Caballeros Templarios offers insight into the group’s attempts to manipulate the media and organize protests against the police.

Milenio newspaper reports that it had access to recordings of suspected gang members talking about mobilizing residents of the town of Apatzingan to protest against the recent arrival of the Federal Police to the state of Michoacan, where the Caballeros are located. They also discussed seeking an audience with media outlets, and publicizing the arrival of the federal forces.

The government has long accused gangs of orchestrating protests against the security forces, arguing that those marching in the streets often represent the interests of the wealthy mobs, not the public will, but the recordings offer a clearer view of the nature of criminal organizations’ role in such events.

The Caballeros, as one of the gangs most deeply linked to society in its home turf, has a capacity to manipulate the public using both carrots and sticks that goes well beyond that of most gangs. However, the recorded conversations also seem to reveal a deeper concern for public relations than has previously been understood. While many gang leaders have sought to paint government forces in a bad light and have organized sporadic and mostly ineffective public relations efforts, the conversations between the Caballeros offer a picture of a group that views popular opinion as a vital source of its power.

This is likely due to the group's leader: Servando Gomez, alias “La Tuta.” Even while a member of the Familia Michoacana gang, before splitting to form the Caballeros earlier this year, Gomez showed himself to be unusually interested in communicating with the public and offering justifications for his actions. He attracted national attention in 2009 for calling into a television program and engaging in a lengthy interview.

What follows is InSight Crime's translation of three conversations, transcribed by Milenio, among alleged members of the Caballeros Templarios. The first is between a man known as "Pantera" and his subordinate, who goes by the nickname "Toy." The two men discuss ways to increase participation in an anti-government protest, so as to embarrass the Calderon administration. They seem to agree that they will impose fines on any stores which defy their orders and stay open.

P.- We gotta mobilize everyone, there’s an [expletive] march.
T.- Ah, it’s on Wednesday, right?
P.- No, [expletive] Wednesday, we need to do it now.
T.- I had everything ready, there was even going to be food...
P.- On Wednesday.
T.- Yes, food, barbecue, tortillas, water, drinks.
P.- [Expletive] it. I want you to close everything, stores, everything, on Wednesday, I don’t want a single store open and I want everyone marching, listen to me, if they don’t close, we will fine them, just so they know.
T.- The whole town closed.
P.- The whole [expletive] town closed, just so they know, everyone needs to go just like that, spread the word, [expletive] it all, there will be a huge protest, I’m going to dare to do this, and if they get angry at me, let them get angry at me.
T.- Ah, sounds good, sounds good.
P.- Please: I want all the stores closed and start telling people now, I want you to tell them that on Wednesday we will wait for them at 4 in the afternoon.

In the second conversation, two unidentified alleged gang members complain about the "blues," or the Federal Police. They appear to be discussing ways to encourage media outlets to cover the arrival of the force, and seeking a meeting with one media group.

— Those sons of [expletive] are around here already?
— Who got here already?
— Those blue [expletive].
— They are here again?
— Those dogs are around here, look here ... please, with cameras, put it on Televisa, on Milenio, everyone that came here, let’s get them to work ... please.
— Sounds good.
— And tell that guy from ABC that I was supposed to meet with them and we didn’t meet.
— OK.
— Right now we gotta go so that they meet with me please, with the boys ... let’s get rolling, with cameras rolling, it looks like they are filming ... please.

In the third conversation, two men discuss meeting with various prominent media outlets. It is not clear how far they are trying to manipulate the coverage, though the references to "our people" suggest that the group may have journalists they are in regular contact with, or even on their payroll.

— Talk to me.
— I mean, if you could take me over there with the boys to give them a little paper.
— I’m sorry?
— If you could take me over there with the boys to talk.
— Let me check with them to see what they are doing in the afternoon.
— Hey.
— Let me call them, I mean.
— Call them to see where they are.
— Where who is?
— The people on the outside or our people?
— No, buddy those on the outside.
— Ah, there are three.
— Who is it?
— One coming from El Universal, Telemundo, and Univision.
— The guy from Milenio, he’s coming too?
— Yeah, Tony is here covering, the guy from Televisa, he is sending stuff to Televisa and Milenio.
— No, no, no. Did the guy from Milenio come? Did he come or not?
— Yeah he came.
— OK, good, tell me where they are and I’ll stop by right now.


  1. the conversations seem staged to me....

  2. An entire town totally controlled by criminals. Gladly they turn out to show their obedience. Shame on you Apatzingan, Michoacan.

  3. I'm a native Spanish speaker and I can vouch for the translation. The conversations in Spanish do not look staged at all, they look spontaneous and natural.

  4. The conversations seem authentic.... I love this!!

    Its eye popping to me that a bunch of Mexicans (these guys are criminals that come from the lowest rung of society: farmers and laborers, poor people) seem to have a media strategy!! Wow! They're concerned with public perception and concern themselves with "moves" to effect an endgame! These guys are POLITICIANS!

    ...can you imagine the Crips or Bloods concerned about the way they'd be portrayed at 6 and 10? Now, imagine a social class even lower than that.

    These are the guys that whack the weeds and water the manicured lawns in the US. ... slightly underemployed as gardeners, if you ask me...

    News of the bizarre... Pretty cool...

  5. Everybody in every small town knows who is and is not involved in crime.The gangs MUST keep good PR or they will be sunk. Mex Fed brings in outsiders who are not part of the local corrupt GOOD OLD BOY system so big danger in locals helping point out bad guys.

  6. It is interesting that these hoods have a media strategy but it seems to me to be a bust...all for naught. The idea of forcing the entire town out to march against the arrival of Federal forces is clever. However, if evidence surfaces showing the community was coerced into doing it rather than of their own free will,it would have minimal effect in the way of propaganda.
    It's almost laughable the way these clowns trip over their own two feet.

  7. Sweet little girl in the pic I hope she don't get hurt in all this chaos.

  8. yo soy Mexicano and I know the accent of some of the people from around Mexico but the guy in the first video the one who aks for "toy" is not mexican don`t sound like sureño,veracruzano or Acapulqueño,tabasqueño y menos de yucatan he sounds like central-american.
    and on the second video I can confirm that this people are from Michoacan they have that pecular accent.

  9. Such a beautiful country, such a messed up culture of people. Sorry to those who think and call me racist. Not trying to offend, but I`m sure it will. It doesn`t matter what ethnicity you are, when your total mindset is of "entitlement", you are not going to dig out of the impoverishment you live in. That`s the scary thing about the current administration in the white house, they want Americans to become dependent on the government. Talk about entitlements and people lose their minds. Back to the cultural issues in Mexico. I don`t understand the mentality of "free is better". Where is the self pride in doing an honest days work for an honest day`s pay? I know I don`t understand what really goes on down there, not many of us here on BB do, but the corruption that runs so deep is a good indicator of "I`m gonna get mine and everyone else be damned". If you gotta step on ten for the one to have, no big deal. I`ve often wondered, and maybe someone can answer this, why is that when I drive through a predominately hispanic area in Texas, Arizon, California, wherever, I see hispanics with cars all "tricked out", chains, around their necks, tatoos all over, four to five young kids, a pit bull at the house, and not to mention a house that is falling apart, the lawn hasn`t been mowed, I just don`t understand this mindset. Call me whatever you want, racist, bigot, whatever, I get it, but please explain that "lifestyle" to me and how it is "bettering your neighborhood"? or doing good for your community?

  10. Haha 7:53 you make a good point there,I'm Mexican,and I kno alot of mexicans who have a 50,000dollar car,truck,suv whatever yet they live in an apartment not saying that living in an apartment is bad it just shows how image is very important to us Mexican,just look at our representative felipe Calderon pretty much talking shit to the Forbes magazine ppl for giving Mexico a bad image haha cus they put chapo on their list and not him.

  11. there is a world of difference between chicano culture...and authentic Mexican culture...not so much outward posing and acting tough Mexico you better watch the little guys who aren't attracting much attention...

    American gangs are mean enough..but by Mexican standards they are just playing around...cartel sicarios are not fucking around ..they are a hundred times more deadly...they will kill you and cut you up and thats it ...just one more day at work

    it seems like in the USA they like to scare people... intimidate ..fuck around looking tough

    in will probably never see it play time...nice ...polite ..smiling ..with deadly intent

    in the USA the gangs have to fear the Mexico...they fear nothing

  12. @ 7:53 am, I love how Americans especially white Americans try to tie Mexican's socio-economic problem to Mexico's culture which you don't how a clue about. Also I don't know what you're talking about Mexican Americans having tricked out cars, big chains etc., I live on the border(which is predominantly hispanic) and I never see what your racist ass claim. If what you claim is true(lol) then why is the border a lot safer than middle America(where white people live)? Why is El Paso(99% hispanic) the safest city in the US?

  13. you have apparently never traveled far from the border...try ..lets say Salinas CA..Soledad street...or Watsonville...east LA...

    have you been in a coma ..have you never seen a "low rider"?

    the rest of your bitter comment is irrational and incoherent

  14. @July 18, 2011 9:09 PM

    Really lito brito Salinas CA or East LA are on the border? haha. I would have never expected you to say something so stupid haha.

    the the rest of your comment is irrational and incoherent.

  15. man are you guys that dense?...

    two of you now?

    "you have apparently never traveled far from the border"

    meaning that the places i named were AWAY..i repeat ...AWAY ....from the border

    and i am well aware that chicano/cheech and chong so-cal culture is in no representative of overall Mexican American culture

    i was only saying that there are a lot of tricked out cars and so some parts of the mexican /american community..specifically in the areas i named

    man ya'll need to get a grip...waiting to pounce on any little perceived discrepancy in any comment i make

    you underlying latent racism and hostility towards any non native spanish speaking people is bleeding through

    it really burns some of your asses that i have been around a lot huh?

    i am about ready to forget this silly ass sad sack bullshit and just go to the forum...

    Buela was right ..this annoying mouse shit is for the birds

    as irritating as ardy is least he has the ass to stand and fight ..not hide behind behind anonymity

  16. Sorry, to sound so offensive, I live on the border in Texas too, Edinburg is a stones throw, well, a tick further than a stone, but when you get to Edinburg, they all run together, McAllen, Donna, Weslaco, all on the border and alot of the younger community which is , as am I, are hispanic thug acting. I just don`t get the mentality. Maybe being raised with morals or something or than an entitlement mentality makes me feel different. Call me the Bill Cosby of my race. haha. I think it`s time that people take responsibility for themselves and straighten up and quit blaming whitey for your troubles. As you said, you live in 99% hispanic area, so whitey cannot be the issue, it comes from within. And don`t tell me that these young cholos arent driving around with chrome spinners, lowered, with wife beater T-shirts on, chains dangling from their neck, tatoos on their necks, a couple of illegitimate kids all at the ripe ole age of about 19. I just graduated, and that`s all in high school, so imaging what the 19-25 year olds are doing. I`m glad I got accepted to UT. I`m outta here.

  17. I had to read Brito's comment 3 times to try and understand what you anon commenters are bitching about, but he is not saying what you are reading.

    He is saying places AWAY from the in LA (SoCal)or Watsonville & SAlinas (NoCal)

    Get a grip folks, Brito has info from the ground and is a person you can learn from, and be entertained at the same time.

  18. k onda guey B..

    i am about ready to move to annoying anymouses least there you got to have enough nerve to give yourself a handle and stand up...

    sort of more like for grownups..jajjajajaj

  19. Is it schools out or what the f--k is going on here in comments this days? So childish shit and I'm not talking about only exactly this topic.
    I don't know if I remember right, I started to read this blog maybe 6 months ago.

    Yeah we all know about ATF and Fast and the Furious shit. Still someone think its necessary to write about it on EVERY topic, like to somewhere where news was about beheaded bodies by machetes. Can't be anything else than trolling.

    Please guys, this is great blog, don't ruin it with your lack of medicines or whatsoever.

  20. Hola Briiiiito!

    We have real time discussions on forum, but we have asshole-trolls that can get wacked out also. However Jeffe Buggs keeps a good handle on it. I think you should post a couple of things on there you would be a postive addition. You can do both forum and mainboard but that is time consuming. I went over to forum because it got too contentious with Ardent so willed him to you. JAJA nah, Ardent is Ardent what can I say? He does have some quality op among all that lefty garbage.

    I just posted a good post (if I do say so myself jaja) about Ponchis..his trial begins on Monday, check it out.


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