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Fri Oct 31 14:22:52 SAST 2014

Mexican gangs threaten Internet activists

Sapa-dpa | 25 February, 2013 08:27

Image by: Nikita Ramkissoon

A price has been put on their lives, by gangs who want to find out the names of Mexican Internet activists have used the anonymity granted by social networks to denounce organised crime.

From the Facebook page Valor por Tamaulipas (Courage for Tamaulipas), which was created a year ago, and the Twitter account @ValorTamaulipas, activists who will not specify their ages or even genders, as they take on the interests of those in the violent north-eastern Mexican border state of Tamaulipas who now want to kill them.

“For us, this has become a race against the clock that we know we will not win. Something would have to happen, a miracle, for organised crime not to have the power it has, and there is neither the national nor the international will to end this cancer,” the activists told dpa in an interview done by Facebook.

A few days earlier, flyers emerged in Ciudad Victoria that offered 600,000 pesos (48,000 dollars) for the identities of the activists “or direct relatives, be they parents, siblings, children or wife.

“Good money to shut the gob of fucking busybodies like these jerks who think they’re heroes,” the flyers read, along with a phone number to which any information was to be reported.

This is not the first time the Internet activists have been the object of threats. In the past, someone allegedly belonging to the Gulf Cartel created a page called Antivalor por Tamaulipas to attack them.

At least four Internet activists have already been killed in this part of Mexico for their activities. They include journalist Maria Elizabeth Macias, 39, who wrote the blog Nuevo Laredo en Vivo (Nuevo Laredo Live) and was decapitated in 2011.

A message signed with several Zs (which identifies the gang Los Zetas), a computer keyboard, a CD player and several cables were left by her body.

“OK. Nuevo Laredo en Vivo and social networks. I am the chick from Laredo and I am here because of my reports and yours,” the message read.

Traditional media also suffer similar attacks. Dailies like El Manana in Nuevo Laredo have opted for self-censorship.

The administrators of the page Valor por Tamaulipas admits that they have thought about giving up too. However, reports of criminal activities keep coming from around the state, and the authors of the page think it is worth publishing such information to protect others.

“There have always been threats. The truth is, what scared us more was the fact that this started to be publicised elsewhere, and in Tamaulipas the ’penalty’ for impartial reports on criminal activity and for drawing attention to it is death. It is against the interests of the cartels and of corrupt authorities,” the activist says.

There have been two major threats, the activists recalled. One was in November when the Gulf Cartel created the Antivalor por Tamaulipas page and asked 10,000 people close to the criminal group to try and get Valor por Tamaulipas closed down.

Another was to undermine the page’s credibility by attempting to leak inaccurate information.

About 99 per cent of the reports on which Valor por Tamaulipas is based come from private citizens, with the rest coming from authorities who are “tired of hearing about unpunished murders.”  Still, the Internet activists have not requested protection: not just because that would expose their identities but also because the anonymous writers do not trust the authorities, who, in many cases in Mexico, are in bed with the gangs.

Under new Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office in December, the plan is to fight crime by sweeping it under the rug, the activists said.

“They will restrict information more, which means that the gag will be stronger,” they said.

The activists think this may be part of the reason why no representatives from the authorities have been in contact to offer “a way out.” 

“I guess they are showing us that we are alone when it comes to organised crime,” the activists said.

“In our state (Tamaulipas) the pain, the suffering, the fear and the uncertainty are so great that just like us there are hundreds of families who are indeed in a worse position. They are in their homes, at work, and they do not have the cover of anonymity like we do.”

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