Two vandalized billboards in El Paso, Texas, have left residents feeling uneasy. The “disturbing” displays may signify cartel threats.
According to local media outlet KHOU, one of the vandalized signs on highway I-10 says “Plata O Plato,” which translates into “silver or lead.” Reports state that this message is usually meant as a threat to government officials from cartels in Mexico.
The threat typically signifies that a cartel is prepared to use violence if police refuse to cooperate with them.
A mannequin, dressed in a suit and tie, was found hanging from the sign via a noose.
A second vandalized billboard was subsequently discovered on the same highway. This one was originally a sign advertising a $5 million reward from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for turning in Rafael Caro Quintero, a drug lord.
“Dying for drugs,” was painted across the billboard, according to KHOU. The DEA sign also sported a hanging mannequin, this one dressed in jeans.
At this time, authorities do not know who is behind the signs; some suspect they may be the work of activists protesting the so-called “war on drugs.”
Regardless of the billboards’ intentions, local residents are left feeling disturbed. Given that El Paso is located right on the U.S.-Mexican border, many are concerned that the billboards may signify an increasing spill-over of violent cartel-activity into the U.S.
“Maybe the problems in Juarez are coming over here,” one El Paso resident told KHOU. “It’s a little terrifying. You wish it didn’t happen to your home town,” another added.
According to KHOU, El Paso police said in a statement, “This symbol has historically been used by Mexican drug cartels to threaten or intimidate Mexican citizens, business owners and government officials; however, we have never experienced this in El Paso.”
Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate.