November 14, 2011 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Fourth netizen murdered in two months in Nuevo Laredo, cartels feared

Reporters Without Borders is deeply shocked by the discovery of an Internet activist’s decapitated body in the northeastern city of Nuevo Laredo on 9 November. Identified by the nickname of “Rascatripas” (Belly-Scratcher), he helped moderate “Nuevo Laredo en Vivo,” a website about organized crime. He was the fourth netizen to be slain in this dangerous border town in the past two months for reporting on the activities of drug traffickers. His hands had been tied and his head had been severed from his body. A message left beside the body said: “This happened to me for not understanding that I shouldn’t report things on social networks.” “The list of netizens falling victim to the cartels keeps on getting longer,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Just reporting information on the Internet has become almost suicidal. All of Mexican society is now concerned. The safety of all those who take the risk of covering Mexico’s violence depends on the success of the investigation into these murders. We demand justice for the slain Internet users and bloggers just as we do for murdered and missing journalists.” The bodies of the three previous victims were left in a similarly gruesome manner. The beheaded body of María Elisabeth Macías, a journalist and blogger who used social networks to report on local organized crime activities, was found on 27 October in exactly the same place with a similar message signed “Z,” for the Zetas, a cartel that is active in the region. The bodies of a man and a woman bearing the marks of torture were hung from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo on 13 September with a message threatening those who contribute to websites that denounce the activities of organized crime. In the absence of coverage in many traditional media, which censor themselves for fear of reprisals, Mexicans use social networks and websites such as Nuevo Laredo en Vivo and the Blog del Narco to denounce and discuss the activities of the drug cartels. These netizens are unfortunately eliciting a violent response from the cartels and cannot always count on support from the authorities. The toll from the federal offensive against drug trafficking meanwhile continues to mount. Two Internet users were arrested on charges of terrorism and sabotage in the east-coast city of Veracruz at the end of August for posting messages on Twitter about the possibility of an organized crime attack on a Veracruz school. They were finally released and the charges were dropped after a month. The drug war has also moved online. The hacker collective Anonymous had threatened to reveal the names of persons linked to the Zetas cartel but withdrew the threat on 5 November after the cartel reportedly offered to release a kidnapped Anonymous activist in return for its silence. The kidnap victim’s name was not released for safety reasons.