Hacker collective Anonymous has focused its Web-based ire on Los Zetas, one of Mexico's most powerful and most dangerous drug cartels.
In a video statement (below) from the group, Anonymous said it will use Web attacks to try to free one of its members who was kidnapped by one of the world's most violent drug cartels. If the detained hactivist in Veracruz isn't released by Nov. 5, Anonymous says it will publish information on Zetas members and the local citizens and police officers who collaborate with the group, including photos and addresses.
We want the Army and the Navy to know that we are fed up with the criminal group Zetas, who have concentrated on kidnapping, stealing and blackmailing in different ways. the video says. One of them is charging every honest and hardworking citizen of Veracruz, who bust their rears days after day to feed their families.
We can't defend ourselves with a weapon, but if we can do this with their cars, houses, bars, brothels, and everything else in their possession. It won't be difficult. We all know who they are and where they are.
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Is it unclear who was kidnapped by Los Zetas and why, and Anonymous has yet to release the name of the member in Zetas' hands. But attacking bloggers has become a new tactic for Los Zetas and other cartels, and the anonymous 'Anonymous' member could have been targeted for what he/she said online.
In September, two people were tortured, then hanged from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo for tweeting disparaging messages about drug cartels. Attached to the bodies were two signs, one of which read This happens for... denouncing, according to CNN. One of the notes also had the names of two blogs, Al Rojo Vivo and Blog del Narco. The notes were signed with a Z, an oft-used Zetas signature.
A week later, a journalist in Nuevo Laredo, Marisol Marcia Castaneda, was decapitated in retaliation for posts she made on a social media network, authorities said.
Traditional media outlets are as frightened of drug gang retaliations as many citizens and newspapers often censure their own reports to downplay cartel crimes. This places the reporting burden on bloggers and social media users, and it is no surprise that Castaneda posted her comments on the Nuevo Laredo Live Web site and not in her newspaper, Primera Hora.
Nuevo Laredo en Vivo and social networking sites, I'm The Laredo Girl, and I'm here because of my reports, and yours, a message left on Castaneda's body read. For those who don't want to believe, this happened to me because of my actions, for believing in the army and the navy. Thank you for your attention, respectfully, Laredo Girl...ZZZZ.
Castaneda was the 10th journalist killed in Mexico this year and the 74th since 2000, according to Mexico's Human Rights Commission.
Many of Anonymous' claims about the cartel are accurate, and the Zetas and other drug gangs often tax local citizens in exchange for protection.
In Acapulco, cartels are using extortion to try to rob teachers of their salaries. A number of severed heads, thought to be warnings, have been found outside of local schools in the city.
In the state of Guerrero, Gov. Angel Aguirre has promised to increase police patrols around schools, as well as install security cameras and panic buttons in classrooms, The Telegraph reported. A number of schools have remained closed for weeks for fear that cartels will attack students and teachers if they aren't paid protection money.
These tactics are used throughout Mexico. In Santiago in the state of Nuevo Leon, a series of threatening banners were posted in schools. On a few occasions, armed men entered into schools to deliver threats in person.
This is not isolated to schools. In the past, private citizens, judges and even elected officials have been murdered for refusing to cooperate with cartels. Often, their bodies are displayed as warnings to anyone else thinking of standing up to crime.
Additionally, Anonymous is correct in its allegations that (some) officials are on the cartels' payroll. A July report that found that more than 400 police officers and investigators nationwide had been fired over corruption allegations in the past year. Moreover, many of the cartels' enforcement gangs hire both current and retired cops as members.
Chihuahuan street gang La Linea's Marco Antonio Guzman Zuniga, nicknamed El Brad Pitt, was just one of many recent arrests of former police officers turned drug lieutenants. Guzman was arrested this summer for a car bomb set off outside a police station in 2010 and the murder of man whose death was videotaped and put on the internet. La Linea is the enforcement branch of the Juarez cartel.
In many cities, law enforcement officials, politicians and judges are either too afraid or being bribed too well to try to stop cartel activities.
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Anonymous' latest quest is bold one. Along with the Zetas, Anonymous addressed its video to Mexico's army and navy. In 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderon turned to the military as the tool for combating organized crime. While Calderon's crackdown has led to a number of arrests, overall violence and drug activity has only increased since he took office.
Anonymous is also directly challenging Calderon. By publishing the photos, addresses and other data on alleged perpetrators, Anonymous is goading the Mexican government to do something about organized crime.
In the past five years, about 43,000 people have been killed in Mexico's war on drugs. So far, the military hasn't been effective in stopping crime, so maybe responding to it using the methods generally reserved for cartels will be more effective. For Anonymous, when the law fails, criminality is the best way to fight criminals. (Anonymous is definitively a criminal organization -- it has stolen credit card information and electronically broken into a number of businesses, as well as the Pentagon.)
But, the Zetas are not ones to give in to intimidation. As Mexico's second-largest cartel, whose territory stretches over a huge portion of the country and even into U.S., the Zetas would sooner decapitate the Anonymous victim they have and be done with it.
The cartel was founded by 30 Mexican Special Forces deserters who conscribed a number of Guatemalan Kaibiles, the special operations force responsible for a number of atrocities during that Central American country's civil war. The training given to new members has been compared to Green Beret training in the U.S., proof that Los Zetas regards militancy -- necessary in territorial battles with rival cartels -- nearly as highly as drug trafficking. They are ruthless and uncompromising.
Los Zetas, as an organization, will likely not react to Anonymous' video threats. The taxi-drivers and police-zetas who collaborate with criminals are the only ones who will stand to lose anything if their photos are published. These are not the people who will be able to free a kidnapped person.
The most powerful members of the gang -- the same people who determine who gets kidnapped, released or murdered -- are too powerful, careful and well-protected to care about Anonymous.
Stratfor's Fred Burton thinks that the Zetas' most likely reaction to the published photos will be to kidnap and kill more bloggers.
In this viral world on the Internet, it shows how much damage could be done with just one statement on the Web, Burton said, according to the Houston Chronicle.