Breitbart Texas traveled to the Mexican border cities of Reynosa and Matamoros to recruit citizen journalists willing to risk their lives and expose the cartels silencing their communities. The writers would face certain death at the hands of the Gulf Cartel if a pseudonym were not used. Breitbart Texas’ Cartel Chronicles are published in both English and in their original Spanish. This article was written by the citizen journalist from Reynosa @MrCruzstar.
REYNOSA, Tamaulipas — The Mexican state of Tamaulipas, the place where the ongoing war between cartels factions combined with the fight by Mexican authorities and these criminal organizations place the average citizen at risk. Tamaulipas is the place where media outlets have been silenced since 2010 when armed confrontations began. The murder of several reporters at the start of the violence led to self-censure out of fear of reprisals by criminals. Tamaulipas is the same place where the government officially denies the daily conflicts and has abandoned the average citizen.
This information gap has been filled by these very same average citizens who have begun using social media to anonymously get the word out. The limiting of information by news outlets and the denial of violent incidents by government institutions has been defeated by virtual communities. On February 23, 2010 self-defense groups on Twitter armed with 140 characters created the hashtag #reynosafollow. This is a channel to inform those who will follow about situations of risk (shootouts). The group has turned into a virtual community that sounds off messages of awareness about raging gun battles, grenade attacks and cartel roadblocks. The messages are provided in real time to reduce the risks for citizens that navigate the city on a daily basis. Full anonymity and cyberspace is what allowed the network of solidarity that ended up becoming a community.
In a YouTube video (below) recorded after a large gun battle in early 2010 in the border city of Mier which went viral on social media shone a bright spotlight on Tamaulipas. Mexican news outlets began reporting on the ongoing violence throughout Tamaulipas by relying on social media reports about the violence. However even now it isn’t possible for major outlets to have correspondents reporting on the violence in the state due to a lack of security conditions. As a response to the violence, average citizens began to follow security protocols and the information provided was developed through a collective process. Over time average citizens began using traditional journalism methods and international news outlets began to use the term “citizen journalists”, “cyber-activist” and “cyberspace self-defense groups”
For five years this solid network of virtual activist has remained constant and functional during which time various attempts to silence them have taken place through trolls, infiltrations, fear campaigns and threats. These tactics have been aimed at silencing the group.
The murder of two social media users one in 2011 when @SOLnuevolaredo (the Nena of Laredo) in Nuevo Laredo and @Miut3 in 2014 in Reynosa have delivered heavy blows to the virtual communities in Tamaulipas. However, the need for self-protection has been more powerful than those attempts to dismantle the virtual networks of security alert users.
In the fifth year, the cybernetic resistance has been under attack from two fronts. From one side, members of organized crime who have been affected by the public exhibition of their activities and anonymous complaints. On the other front, government officials who are trying to provide an image of peace and security throughout the state.
The audience of the hashtag #reynosafollow is a large one and for the average citizen it is now common practice to verify the security reports in social media networks before starting their daily commute through the city of Reynosa. In this region social media is a tool for survival.