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

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Narcomensajes: An Analysis

Translated by El Profe for Borderland Beat from Zeta
by Luis Carlos Sáinz
Monday, February 26, 2018 12:00 PM

Organized crime communication arose in the Calderon sexennium and reduced with Peña. Criminals are again taking up narcomensajes on tarps, videos, pieces of cardboard or on the skin of those executed. The CJNG takes advantage of the counterinsurgency logic; the Sinaloa Cartel does not have a definitive message; The Zetas, a vulgar cruelty; The Knights Templar, with a hint of the para-religious; El Golfo, like Tamaulipas, synonymous with death, says professor from the Colegio de la Frontera Norte.

During the last months the assertion of organized crime groups signing its crimes, professing threats or justifying itself to society through trademarks, messages or video recordings has increased, in a communication strategy comparable to the marketing of private companies, governmental institutions or mass media.

This is how the disputes between "Dámasos" and "Guzmanes" or "Tegoripeños" and the threats to the guards of the La Paz prison in Baja California Sur became known in recent weeks. The return to Tijuana of the Sinaloa Cartel cell leader, Alfonso Lira Sotelo "El Atlante," who left the maximum security prison in Puente Grande, Jalisco; or the daring criminals who received threatening narcomantas with the Secretary of National Defense, Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, in Veracruz.

Criminals, mainly drug traffickers of the varied drug cartels and cells of production, distribution, sale and collection of derecho de piso, have brazenly illustrated their operations before the population and before authorities that show passivity, and according to some of the messages, complicity.

One of the most striking news products of the most recent times is, undoubtedly, the video of federal agents belonging to the Deputy Attorney General for Organized Crime Investigation (SEIDO) who were deprived of their freedom on February 5 within the limits of the states of Jalisco and Nayarit and located dead and dismembered days later.

In the opinion of the researcher from the Colegio de la Frontera Norte, Jesús Pérez Caballero, the video of the ill-fated police given to the Attorney General's Office clearly seeks to disseminate ideas about the situation that prevails in Mexico through two techniques "that in principle we would never connect with this type of message: a letter of correspondence and a false desire, in my opinion, for transparency.”

The video of the federal agents, ultimately murdered, manages to generate intimacy with the recipients through a letter format, which anyone is familiar with. "The message begins with a narrator where the role of executioner and victim supposedly converge, which is confessed before the cameras. In the scarcely 400 words spoken by that kidnapped agent all the epistolary features are seen: a presentation, with a 'good afternoon' greeting, an audible name of the speaker and his job, transporting us to a close conversation.”

Then, Pérez Caballero explains, the verbalization of something that every citizen has had indications of: "There are federal operations that allegedly violate the law by excessive use of force. There the criminal group takes advantage to insert their message: those excesses have forced them to change their historical guidelines, responding to arbitrary violence with justified violence.”


This type of communication was the product of the era of the so-called "war against drug trafficking" initiated during the administration of Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa that began in December 2006. The first videos uploaded to social media were from Los Zetas and after, The Matazetas, now Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG). Also the video in Baja California indicated links of a former attorney general with the Sinaloa Cartel.

From then on, messages written on canvases placed on bridges, cardboard next to corpses or human heads, tattoos on mutilated bodies multiplied, texts on WhatsApp with photographs and even fliers thrown from aircraft in cities in the north of the country.

The recipients of the messages are the so-called "rivals" or direct competitors of the cartels that dispute territories, the traitors who desert or betray, authority representatives who attack or support the rivals, musical groups that sing corridos to damage the image of some character of organized crime or praise the opponents, and lately, inmates and prison guards where important economic interests are played out, as in Nuevo León and Baja California Sur. They don't lack the common criminal warnings, with the classic sentiment of "we will not tolerate that harm to an innocent society," as if on a vigilante quest.

The doctor of law from the Gutiérrez Mellado of Madrid Institute, Jesús Pérez Caballero, insists on the example of the video of the former public servants of the SEIDO, in which criminals seek their justification at all costs. "It is the usual speech of 'us', we were 'good narcos' until they forced us to be bad. Finally, the confession letter ends with an intimate farewell from the speaker, in a greeting to his family and the children, designed to achieve empathy for the recipients of the message. If you look closely, each part of the video is assembled to, repeatedly, transmit closeness, although that seems counterintuitive."

The content of the video has a plan of generality, with a message not limited to those who appear in it. What the criminals seek is to establish a national counter-discourse that interprets violence, as opposed to the discourse of federal institutions, presented as a synecdoche of national politics.

"Note that to achieve this general agenda, the mediators are hidden from the immediate issuers of the message. All the masked men carry their weapons in silence and use the two abducted men as the medium. Those who hold the message that is read, are anonymous, as well as the person who records it and who leads the cell or group."

The specialist emphasizes that the video does not carry a signature. It will be from CJNG. It will be from Sinaloa. It is not known. Although in the area where the event took place both groups are dominant. Neither is the location of the hostages, nor where the reported facts occur. When there is no date, the video presents a timelessness that benefits that universal impression.

"On the contrary, the abductees do say their names and surnames, and with their faces uncovered, they kneel, they enunciate their job, including a T-shirt that reveals their function as interchangeable. This labeling places them as victims of a double machinery: the one promoted by the federal institutions, which by negligence would be incapable of protecting them from the kidnappers, and that generated by the criminal group, which in the video is affirmed much stronger than any official institutions. I think it is important that we stop to see how we describe these two actors," says the interviewee.


The scholar interprets in the video that the federal security institutions, apparently guarantors of legality, would be committing extrajudicial executions, which "nullifies all arrests" against "any target criminal or not." Not only do criminals accuse these institutions of arbitrariness, but they spell out a strategy of confusion of "disappearing all traces of procedure" and, in essence, "doing whatever we want" with the criminals. 

"Look at the picture: deaths are ordered from the government to any individual labeled as an enemy and are obligated to remove any evidence of those deaths. Obviously, the scenario that follows from this is complete confusion not only of the facts themselves, but also by the person who reports the deaths. It is true that Mexican security institutions extrajudicially execute, torture or disappear individuals, but the issue is that who reports this successfully is a criminal group that also murders, tortures and disappears individuals, surely on a larger scale than official institutions," points out Jesús Pérez.

However, since criminals are dedicated to that, they can use cynicism to accuse the authorities. And this, as they have surpassed all the barriers between the law and police force, can only offer to the citizens a response of more force, already without legitimacy.

Moreover, those authorities would act, according to the video, by negligently sending unprepared people (the two who confess would be an obvious example: individuals in their 20s who have only been working in the SEIDO for a year), acting mercilessly and corruptly, since according to the discourse of the video, 'women, children and elderly people' disappear, a symbol of innocence, as they mockingly 'behind their desks or at a social event, share what they get from thefts and kidnappings'".

Obviously, the criminal group draws up that Manichean view to exploit it miserably and present itself with completely opposite features to federal institutions. Thus, criminals would be professionals and always act consistently and without falsehoods. With that lie they seek to cast an assumed light, naming the crimes committed.

"Faced with off-the-record figures and lack of official data, the criminal group responds with off-the-record truths: it names extrajudicial executions, torture, robberies, kidnappings, disappearances and violations. This is related to the exploitation that this criminal group makes of an apparent transparency. I want to say that the video is impregnated with the intention of unveiling secrecy, when in fact nothing is revealed that we do not already know":

- The criminals speak, but through the mouths of others.
- Weapons are shown, but not those who carry them.
- It shows officials of the SEIDO, even identified by shirts, but without knowing their function in the police force.
- Crimes are listed, but victims are not specified, nor where they were committed, nor when.

The hypothesis of the researcher is that this didactic of false transparency is at the service of attributing an image of omnipotence to the criminals. "On the one hand, they say they could always have done wrong, and if they stopped themselves from doing wrong, it was in order to follow rules that the uniformed men have broken: 'We are clear that we were always respected as authorities because it was the cartels' decision, not because they could not do us harm.' In addition, they deploy a capacity to extend over time, because what is staged in the video 'will continue to happen' (that expression is said twice). Finally, they can kidnap anyone. According to those kidnapped, 'the fact that we dress as normal workers does not mean that they do not know who we are.'" All this is a sample of a very sophisticated propaganda, considered with a strategic outcome."

Each criminal organization has its style and message dissemination system. In appearance there would be many similarities, but in reality there are many more differences. Although incipiently, by where the groups operate, the police and their superiors imagine the background of narcomensajes. Here is the Spaniard Jesús Pérez Caballero:

"The CJNG is the one who best uses the counterinsurgency logic in its videos, developing it according to Mexico today. The most remarkable thing is the plasticity to connect their discourse with real concerns of citizens, such as the perception of violence, vigilantism or the case of the so-called vigilantes (which are a pathetic uberization of justice). They mix that very strong discursive structure, with obvious features of counter-information and psychological operations, with a pseudo-institutional detachment. That's different from the communication of other groups," he says.

As for the Knights Templar, he thinks that "they had an excessively para-religious angle, extravagant and markedly linked to Michoacán. In addition, both 'La Tuta' and other leaders ('El Tío', 'El Chayo') were grotesque, without media punch. In contrast, the Zetas are too raw, even vulgar in their cruelty, and the violent message they show is that of the naked gallows."

As for the Sinaloa organization, "they do not spread their messages in a unified way. Sometimes they are similar in the exploitation of counter-insurgency discourse, but on other occasions they do not present that logic; and in general, they are too overshadowed by the media presence of figures such as 'El Chapo' Guzmán. In some groups of the Gulf there is something similar to the CJNG, but both they and Tamaulipas are, among the population, synonymous with death, not order, and that prevents them from capitalizing on social anxieties. In front of all of them, the CJNG easily sends informative packages inserted in the nebula of the counterinsurgency and that connect with national issues"

It seems that in the months prior to the electoral process there will be no truce between drug traffickers, not between them, nor with the authorities. What are we yet to see in the actions of organized crime groups in Mexico? Perez responds: "We have been on the stage for years after the annulment of public discourse, where the only goal is the strength and purification of the enemy.
What is officially promoted and, evidently, by the criminal groups is that the only gradation is how much more or less arbitrariness we are willing to accept. But we must challenge that framework of arbitrary violence. That is not challenged by asking for more police and military, or hauling lynchings, vigilantes and other individuals who outsource arbitrariness."

The interviewee concludes for ZETA : "We have to think about what the historian Camilo Vicente has described, how the Mexican State, historically, channels the surplus of arbitrary violence to establish an order that props up the status quo. The question is to oppose that, to dismantle the way in which the counter-insurgency paradigm has encapsulated public discourse. A national counter-discourse must come from citizens, not from criminal groups like those in the video. "


  1. Gabino Sierra Santana leader of Los Viagras was just captured in Michoacan and a whole bunch of blockades and burning of shit went down because of that.
    He was captured along with 8 other men.

  2. An 'market analysis' of the criminal marketing medium!Laughable!When you think of it it really is.The gall of them.Criminals are supposed to be like children seen quietly but not heard.They are supposed to be under the radar but impunity brings them out in the open with not a worry in the world.

  3. A los Mexicanos que hablan, especialmente los de abajo sin palancas ni dinero, se los lleva la verga de Un dia para otro, anonimos, or enmascarados, twitteros o del feice, or IG.,,
    It is a stretch to expect that common Mexicans will take arms against a corrupt government weaponized by the US with monetary, legal, moral support and guaranteed sovereign impunity when they should get the fack out of the way, then the people will take over.
    Spain only.gets involved in defending their former colonies in order to exact "something for the Crown or their bankers, as they did in Nicaragua and Chile and in Mexico with Oceanografia and other juicy oil Co tracts from PEMEX for a Spanish company that knows NOTHING OF THE OIL BUSINESS OR TECHNOLOGY BUT KNEW IN WHICH OFFSHORE BANK TO PAY THEIR ADMISSION PRICE.
    Spain even let go of El Bertie Boy Moreira, soo, thanks for nothing, spain, all we have from you is the Holy Inquisition masked bandits are back with a vengeance.


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