Mexican gangs provoke terror with Twitter, Facebook (News Feature)
By Nelson Keiman Feb 26, 2010, 21:26 GMT
Mexico City - Organized crime gangs in Mexico are using social networks like Twitter and Facebook as weapons in psychological warfare to cause terror and show off their power in northern Mexico.
On Thursday, the gangs used the media to spread rumours of heavy clashes between their hitmen and the military and of attacks on specific towns by criminals.
The phenomenon took such dimensions that Eugenio Hernandez Flores, governor of the state of Tamaulipas, acknowledged the upswing in rumours of shootouts.
Twitter and Facebook had been used to warn of clashes in several towns across the state. Schools, particularly in the Tamaulipas capital Ciudad Victoria, were left empty as parents rushed to fetch their children before the school day ended, authorities noted.
In Reynosa - the state's largest city, across the border from the US city of McAllen, Texas, - panic had almost emptied the streets. The US consular agency closed its doors till Monday, due to violence.
Terror spread after the military left Sunday and gave way to 'the war between 'Los Zetas' and the guys from the Gulf Cartel,' Reynosa Mayor Oscar Luebbert Gutierrez said.
In this setting, the Mexican military admitted clashes with some armed men in several places near the US border in Tamaulipas.
'Los Zetas' and the Gulf Cartel are believed fighting for control of the area. According to state authorities, 19 people were murdered in the state last weekend alone. A series of shootouts Friday left seven people dead and injured 11 soldiers.
Also Thursday, in China in northern Nuevo Leon state bordering Tamaulipas, a group of armed people visited stores and urged managers to close because there was going to be 'a shootout.'
As a result, the town centre was left deserted.
Authorities in both states acknowledged the seriousness of the situation, and announced they will strengthen police presence in the areas.
Mexico endured its most violent year in recent memory in 2009, with 7,724 deaths linked to organized crime, according to the count kept by Mexican daily El Universal.
Since Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office on December 1, 2006, the bloody toll has reached 16,205, as Calderon deployed 45,000 military units to clamp down on the drug gangs. Most of the dead were killed in the inter-gang scramble for shrinking territory, but thousands of civilians and police officers have also been killed.
Mexico's border with the US - the main market for the drugs that Mexican cartels deal in - is of crucial strategic importance for the powerful gangs, and it is the main stage for a bloody war for territory and control of key routes that also affects other parts of Mexico to a lesser extent.
The northern Mexican state of Chihuahua - mainly in its largest city, Ciudad Juarez - had the highest toll with 3,250 last year.