Examples like this only scratch the surface of the onslaught of atrocities being committed in Mexico in the name of its violent drug war, not sporadically, but daily. In schools, in the street, in people’s homes, the terror and bloodshed of Mexico’s drug war has spiralled uncontrollably from being fought almost solely between those involved, to destroying the lives of untold numbers of innocent civilians, blamelessly paying the price for the battle for South America’s drug routes to the USA.
With an estimated 60,000 drug-related deaths since late 2006, you would think that such stories would be front page news the world over, let alone where they happened. We can envisage Mexico’s news channels as a never ending stream of new information, incessant updates on civilian deaths, carjackings, kidnappings, shootouts, and warnings to the public about dangerous areas and blockades. However, the reality is strikingly different: giving into pressure and bribery from both the government and drug cartels, professional journalists play down the extent of these horrors, and more often fail to report them at all. This gives a skewed image of the reality of life in Mexico for many of its citizens, and only serves to further the power of its drug warlords and kingpins.
The drug war in Mexico centres around the fight for control of the main drug trafficking routes from South America to the USA, a business which is worth an estimated $13billion (£9 billion) a year. Experts say that the Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas are now the main rivals, although Los Zetas have split into two factions.
One of the two anonymous creators of the famous Blog del Narco explains how politicians, feeling unable to control the cartels, focus instead on censoring local and national media. Censorship, bribery, threats and assassinations mean that print journalists and TV anchors fail to report Mexico’s crisis. A study released this week found that coverage of the violence in capital-based print and TV during current President Peña Nieto’s first three months in power was about half what it had been the year before in the same time period. It also explained how words such as ‘organised crime’ and ‘cartel’ were starting to disappear from news reports. The creators of Blog del Narco also relayed the shocking tendency for morally-loose journalists, under the influence of bribery, to call drug kingpins ‘businessmen’, giving a sense of justification and legitimisation to what they do.
Blogs such as the famous Blog del Narco are a direct reaction to this, as they cut out the middleman, and relay direct, immediate information about drug-related violence. With information and graphic videos and images sent in from people as diverse as soldiers, police officers, mothers, businessmen, students, workers, journalists and even cartel gunmen, they serve as a voice for the silenced and unheard majority. Ranked among the top 100 most-visited websites in Mexico, and in the top 4,000 in the world, it is a breath-taking example of the power of the internet, giving the world the ‘undistorted reality’ of Mexico's drug war.
However, such an undertaking means that the creators profess ‘we have signed our own death warrants’, and gangsters continue to kill informants as an attempt at intimidation. In one recent example, a man and a woman who worked for them were disembowelled and hung off a bridge in north Mexico, adorned with signs saying that the creators of Blog Del Narco were next. Their recently released book 'Dying For The Truth' gives the outside world an insight into the horror and violence of life in certain parts of Mexico. The creators speak of their now unrecognisable, clandestine lives, and how they live in constant fear of death. Yet they assert defiantly: ‘we'd prefer to end our lives this way rather than live with the knowledge that we didn't do anything at all for our country.’