Mexico drug violence on the streets of U.S. border towns has taken another gruesome twist with drug cartels stepping up efforts to actively recruit narco-terrorists through the Internet, Drug Enforcement Agency officials say.
YouTube, numerous Mexico-based Internet sites, and alternative online chat rooms all are reporting an increase of violent videos and discussion groups about cartel violence, a USA Today report published Friday concludes.
"It's out of control," Victor Clark, a Tijuana-based drug expert tells the Washington Post.
Clark, who says narco-terrorists in Mexico are following the model of other terrorist groups like al-Qaida and the Taliban, acknowledges use of the Web by cartels to transmit threats to their enemies, recruit members, and glorify the narco-trafficker lifestyle.
"The Internet has turned into a toy for Mexican organized crime," Clark tells The Post. "It's a toy: a toy to have fun with; a toy to scare people."
The proliferation of drug violence videos on the Web, and in video games, is “absolutely” being used as a recruiting mechanism to glorify murderous cartels “as a true reflection of Mexican society today,” according to the USA Today. The ongoing Mexico-U.S. border drug war has killed 7,000 people in the past year and is seriously destabilizing Mexico along the U.S. border. More than 1,000 have been killed in the first eight weeks of 2009.
The drug cartels, using cyberspace to recruit narco-terrorists, are flooding the Internet with images of Mexico drug war beheadings, execution-style shootings and torture. The unprecedented tactic allows cartels to reach across the U.S., “which helps to intimidate enemies and recruit members by touting virtues of cartel leaders,” the report reveals.
"If a video is clearly violent and the purpose is to shock or disgust, we will remove it," Victoria Grand, YouTube’s head of policy, tells USA Today. Grand says YouTube alerts law enforcement agencies if any criminal activity is posted on the site.
Cartels "absolutely" have an online presence, says DEA spokesman Garrison Courtney. DEA officials monitor online videos to gather information about the cartels, Courtney says, and to collect potential evidence in prosecutions.
“It's really changed how we target the cartels.”
Andrew Teekell, a private intelligence firm analyst, tells the Washington Post most of the video postings of drug war violence originate in Mexico, which isn’t as vigilant in monitoring online content as the U.S.
"Mexican law enforcement is ill-equipped to deal with this," Teekell explains. In the U.S., “posting videos like that would be plain crazy." U.S. law enforcement "has guys who do nothing but surf the Internet. But in Mexico, they can get away with it,” he says.
“It shows these cartels are untouchable.”
The first Mexico drug cartel videos began to emerge on the Internet in 2005, a search of the Web shows, when the U.S.-Mexico border war began to turn especially violent. Now, however, they are showing up with disturbing regularity.
Recent video postings on the Web by cartel members include: Narco-terrorists bragging about their recent violent activities Drug lords shooting execution-style police and government officials An autopsy of well-known Mexican singer Valentin Elizalde, reportedly killed for promoting the Sinaloa drug cartel in a music video and mocking its rival, the Gulf cartel A supposed Gulf cartel hit man being questioned by an off-screen interrogator about the February murders of five police officers in Acapulco Assassins decapitating a man by slowing twisting a wire through his neck Postings monitoring who is up and who is down in the drug wars Torture and beheadings of rival drug cartel members Death threats by narco-terrorists referencing who’s next on their list And instructions to drug cartel prisoners on how to run their enterprises from the inside.
"Imagine, if you're a policeman, you can find gold here on these Web sites," Alejandro Páez Varela, an editor at the Mexican magazine Dia Siete who tracks drug gangs' use of the Internet, tells The Post.
"It's a shame. Everything's here: names, places. They even say who they are going to kill."
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