A Facebook wall post denouncing crime is apparently dangerous stuff in Mexico’s drug-infested north, where the administrator of a popular page on the social network has received threats.
The page Valor por Tamaulipas has more than 164,000 “likes” as people follow its updates on gunfights, kidnappings, the presence of gunmen or roadblocks set up by drug traffickers in the state of Tamaulipas.
But the page has garnered enemies as well.
Last week, fliers were distributed in the state capital Ciudad Victoria offering 600,000 pesos, or $46,500, “for whoever has exact information about the owner of the page ‘Valor por Tamaulipas.’”
The pamphlets, which came with a phone number to call, extended the treat to the “direct relatives” of the page’s administrator.
The page administrator told AFP that the threats he has received “could be linked to corrupt authorities and members of the Z,” referring to the ultra-violent Zetas drug cartel.
“One key characteristic that makes me think of corrupt authorities is the way that the threat is written, with few grammar mistakes and without the signature of any criminal group,” the administrator said on condition of anonymity.
The authorities of Ciudad Victoria, which has a population of more than 300,000, would have needed Zetas authorization since the gang controls the city, the administrator said.
Reporting on the crimes committed by drug cartels has made Mexico one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, prompting some newspapers to self-censor the type of information given by Valor por Tamaulipas.
Since 2000, 82 journalists have been killed and another 18 have disappeared in Mexico, according to the National Human Rights Commission.
More than 800 media workers have filed complaints with the authorities, while media buildings have been attacked in the past 13 years.
In 2009, eight media workers disappeared in the Tamaulipas city of Nuevo Laredo. Seven of them reappeared later in other parts of the country but never returned home.
In September 2011, the decapitated body of Maria Elizabeth Macias, a 39-year-old mother of two, was left in a Nuevo Laredo monument next to a keyboard and a message saying she was killed for reporting on the activities of criminal organizations on social media. The message was signed “zzzz.”
Days earlier, the bodies of a man and a woman were hanged off a bridge in the same city with messages threatening anyone using the Internet to denounce crime.
Despite these risks, Valor por Tamaulipas has remained active for the past year, with people posting updates on all sorts of crimes from across the state bordering the United States, including the discovery of bodies.
“I was getting scared at first,” the administrator said. “But now I am more calm. I took all considerations into account and I now think that I have a major responsibility to my people. I can’t let them down.”
The number of people consulting the page has skyrocketed since the threats first emerged on February 13, from almost 18,000 to more than 59,000 after the fliers appeared.
The administrator said neither the authorities nor the National Human Rights Commission have offered protection.
“I don’t think there’s a desire to protect someone who publishes evidence of a state that is completely overwhelmed by criminal control,” the administrator said.