Thursday, March 7, 2019

A need for Blogs

Excerpts from Borderland Beat book - Chapter - A need for Blogs


In essence, the cartels are killing information by killing the messenger. Social media has played a huge role in reporting on the cartel violence in Mexico. This has resulted in organized crime targeting bloggers as well as those who try to remain anonymous for their safety. Borderland Beat has led this fight in reporting about cartels, and the contributors have for the most part remained safe by being anonymous. There were some bloggers from other blogs that were identified by the criminal element and ultimately executed in Mexico. This became an issue for some bloggers, especially the ones living in the Mexican crime regions. This was an item with some of the contributors on Borderland Beat:

After the discovery in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico on November 9, 2011 of the body of the fourth blogger to be killed in the space of a month, for posting online information about drug cartels, The Daily Dot, MSNBC and Der Spiegel each produced an article outlining the dangers such internet activity posed.

For comment, The Daily Dot and MSNBC turned to Borderland Beat administrator "Overmex," while Der Spiegel interviewed Borderland Beat contributor "Gerardo." In the interviews, the two bloggers reiterated their determination to continue reporting on the ongoing drug war, and not to be intimidated by the drug cartels' threats.

Quoting from an article in Bloomberg Businessweek: "To protect contributors, the editors of the blog Borderland Beat, which has a reputation as one of the most reliable sources of information on Mexico's drug violence, say even they don’t know the identity of some of the site's major contributors. Posts are often passed through intermediaries to protect secrecy. "They could be journalists, cops, politicians, maybe even cartel members themselves," says one of the blog's editors, who uses the nickname Buggs." 

For me personally, as the founder and main contributor of Borderland Beat, it was extremely difficult to maintain my anonymity. I was a little bit concerned, but for me it was not very personal or direct, like it was for the collaborators reporting from Mexico.

For one, I live in the U.S., although the cartels could very easily reach out and touch me, even in the U.S. if they really wanted to. But it was a little more complicated than that. I was an active law enforcement officer in the U.S. and was armed 24/7. There was one time, during the time all bloggers were receiving threats, when I did an interview with a media outlet that had discovered my identity. It was reported by KRGV News from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, and ultimately published in Borderland Beat on September 16, 2011 titled, “Cartels Threaten Social Media Users in Mexico.”

Bloggers and social media users in Mexico aren't letting the cartels intimidate them. They continue to blog, tweet, and post information about the drug war. Two people were found hanging from a bridge this week in Nuevo Laredo with a warning to social media users.

Alex Marentes, the blogger who runs a website called Borderland Beat, knows he and his bloggers in Mexico could be the next target. He says his mission is more important than the risk.

The pictures are brutal. The words are brazen. They're a warning to social media users and bloggers. The note mentions three blogs and signed with a Z, perhaps for Zetas. 

“This is the first time we've seen a direct possible tie to cartels targeting bloggers,” says Marentes.


“The cartels reach deep,” says Marentes. 

Not deep enough to silence Facebook, Twitter and the bloggers

“People don’t know what’s going on over there; that’s why I do it,” says Marentes. 

They know knowledge is power. They want to be the change they want to see in the world. 

Marentes says some Mexican blogs act as propaganda machines for the cartels. He says he won't let that happen to his. He says he can't verify the information he's getting from the bloggers because sometimes official information doesn't exist.” 

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