06/11/12 – 14 people were found dead in a cargo truck on Thursday, June 7, in Ciudad Mante, located in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas. The victims included three women and 11 men, all of whom were dismembered. So far, authorities have not released any conclusive identifications of either the victims or their killers, though they have acknowledged that a narco-banner claiming credit was discovered in the truck at the scene–the contents of which have not yet been released.
Tamaulipas has been the site of significant conflict between Los Zetas, the Gulf Cartel, and government forces, and is considered to be one of the more violent states in Mexico. Beginning in 2010, a year in which the state registered 725 narco-related killings (ejecuciones) according to Reforma’s data, President Calderón increased resources and security in the state, most notably by deploying Mexican armed forces to the area. Today, Tamaulipas remains violent–185 ejecuciones documented as of June 8– as cartels struggle to assert dominance in the power vacuum created by the removal of key cartel hierarchies. On June 6, Enrique Peña Nieto, the presidential candidate from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) visited the state and publicly vowed to reduce levels of violence if elected. Thus far, authorities do not believe the killings to be a political statement, but rather that the murders are connected to intra-cartel violence.
An interesting point to highlight in this particular case is the role that social media, specifically Twitter, has played. The story initially broke on the networking site, and continuous open source updates greatly facilitated the speed with which the details of the case spread. This kind of grassroots media reporting has become much more common in Mexico, particularly around drug related crimes where the conventional news media may be hamstrung by cartel threats. This is not the first time Tamaulipas has tracked an incident as it unfolded on Twitter; in October 2011, residents followed the progress of gun battles between the authorities and Los Zetas. The functionality of ‘hash tagging’ a post (essentially categorizing it with other similarly tagged posts) means that Twitter can be used as a live streaming news source as people in the community tweet and tag. The tags tend to be locally or regionally focused–Monterrey tweets for example are usually tagged with #mtyfollow. As the New York Times discussed last year, the increase in news reporting via social media has not been met with entirely positive reactions. Legislators in Veracruz, for example, criminalized the use of Twitter as it ‘undermines public order.’ The rationale for this legislation, and similar bills in other Mexican states, is the potential for unsubstantiated and false reports to create panic. Opponents insist that social media in fact reduces panic because it provides an unbiased, uncensored, real time news update that allows people to be prepared and avoid violent clashes.