Cartel Chronicles: Corruption in Armed Forces Hurting Mexico’s War On Drugs

Eduardo Verdugo, Associated Press

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 is a special guest article by Reynosa’s citizen journalist @MrCruzstar.

REYNOSA, Tamaulipas – The fight against organized crime in this border state has an invisible enemy, one with enough size and power to block the attempts to quiet down Tamaulipas; it even threatens to win the ongoing war on drugs. That enemy is corruption within the ranks of the those who are supposed to be fighting the cartels.

The Mexican government kicked off a new security strategy for Tamaulipas in May, 2014 since the state has dealt with more than five years of armed conflicts between cartel gunmen and federal forces. The rearranging of policies in the fight against crime follows the expected arrival of international capital. The opportunity for large foreign investments in the energy field became possible when the government approved a new energy reform. Tamaulipas is a key state in that reform because of its vast natural resources, the reform became a priority once Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto assumed power. As soon as the reform was passed, the security conditions of the state became an important and urgent need.

The new security strategy that was kicked off in Tamaulipas goes hand in hand with an intense campaign to promote anonymous tips that was advertised through traditional news and media outlets, through social media and even printed on tortilla wrappers.

In Social media, a peculiar case took place with the rise of profiles that appear to be average citizens (called sock puppets), while other openly claim to be part of Mexico’s armed forces. Additionally some average citizens and social media activists are co-opted to change their perception and promote the use of anonymous tips through social media.

The use of social media as a means to provide information is needed in a society where the average citizens doesn’t trust government institutions due to their dark history of failed policies, corruption and falsehoods.

Social media activists have the trust of an average citizen so they are the perfect avenue to channel anonymous tips.

Average citizens were invited to get involved during “Armed Forces and a Civil Society, Joined for the Values of Tamaulipas” an event held in August 2014 aimed at winning their sympathies in a joint action by Mexico’s three levels of government.

Soldiers and civilians shared an amicable moment as they saw the kinder side of the military which has become the sole police force in Tamaulipas — a state where the loss of individual freedoms is justified in the quest for safety.

The alternate means for providing anonymous tips lacks official support and has become the terrain of some with personal agendas. They lack transparency and there is no way of knowing who is getting the information.

An investigation by the publication 24 Horas verified with the headquarters of Mexico’s military, the use and promotion of an email address and contact information used in social media. The official response was that they didn’t’ match the authorized channels for contacts. That created an awkward situation where one is not able to verify the origin of accounts, thus opening the door to questionable purposes.

A government official who requested anonymity claimed to have knowledge of one military group that used intelligence gathered through social media for extorting, capturing and then releasing local cartel leaders and managers in underground operations.

The important achievements by the military or state forces through the capture or killing of top tier cartel bosses are tainted by these actions which take away the public’s trust. The general perception among social media activists is that the enemy has a civilian and an institutional face.

On October 16, 2014, the social media activist known as @Miut3 was kidnapped and her alleged death was widely publicized in a sad case that deals with social media and anonymous tips.

One of the Tweets from a Reynosa citizen journalist asking the public to send anonymous tips.

One of the Tweets from a Reynosa citizen journalist asking the public to send anonymous tips.

The social media activist had been taking part in an online campaign promoting the use of anonymous tips against drug cartels. The activist’s calling out of cartel bosses was usually used with firsthand photographs taken once a capo was either arrested or killed by the military.

The photographs leaked by @Miut3 could only be taken inside the crime scene tape which showed her direct involvement with government security forces, as well as a break in the chain of custody protocol on the part of Mexican armed forces.

The lax way in which rule of law is applied, the unsanctioned activities, and the constant violation of civil rights has stacked the cards against not only the average citizen, but also against government institutions.

The high levels of impunity that allow illegalities and rule breaking within security forces sometimes leads to criminals being the lesser of two evils. The most recent corruption case to make headlines dealt with the arrest of 21 Federales in the border city of Matamoros by their own colleagues over a botched kidnapping. The federal cops were tied to some kidnapping cases and 13 of them were actually caught on their way to collect a ransom.

The new security strategy has been contaminated and it is not able to achieve its goal. The law abiding citizen in Tamaulipas must keep waiting to regain peace; society will continue being held hostage by criminal elements until a true order is implemented, an order that includes coordination and oversight over armed forces.