Mexican Man Decapitated in Cartel Warning to Social Media

Tortured man's body found next to the statue of Christopher Columbus near Texas border

A Mexican man has been decapitated, in an apparent warning to social media users to stop tipping off the authorities about the local drug cartel.

The man appears to have been handcuffed, tortured, decapitated and dumped beside a statue of Christopher Columbus one mile from the Texas border. Below the man’s body was a partially obscured and blood-stained blanket. Written on the blanket in black ink: “Hi I’m ‘Rascatripas’ and this happened to me because I didn’t understand I shouldn’t post things on social networks.”

The discovery of the body Wednesday morning brings the total number of murders associated with social media over the past three months in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo to four. It’s another sign of that a war in Mexico against media (or rather, an ongoing media war) has turned even more dangerous.

On Sept. 13, the bodies of a man and woman were found strung by their arms and legs from a pedestrian overpass (see picture, above). The appearance of the deceased, both in their 20s, revealed signs of torture. The woman was disemboweled. Written on a nearby banner was a message threatening the tip line of the Mexican attorney general, and two blogs including the popular and secretive Blog del Narco.

Then, on Sept. 25, newspaper administrator and moderator of the Nuevo Laredo en Vivo network Marisol Macias Castaneda was found decapitated beside that Christopher Columbus statue. Following the death of Macias, the social network promoted resources on its website to help citizens report organized crime to authorities.

It didn’t help the latest victim, the man nicknamed “Rascatripas.”

Next to his headless body was a scrawled message: “With this, I say goodbye to ‘Nuevo Laredo Live’ … always remember, never forget, my handle, ‘Rascatripas.’”

Social media has become an important means for ordinary Mexicans to strike back at the cartels. Civilians have taken to real-time reporting of trouble spots on the country’s dangerous northern highways. Using Twitter, locations of firefights between cartels and government security forces, or risky cartel checkpoints, are broadcast by volunteers to wired motorists.

“Do not be afraid to report,” said Anon4024 at Nuevo Laredo en Vivo earlier today. “This is how we citizens can make a difference in this city.”

Another contributor, Danlaredo, warned against giving out personal information: “No need to worry, no way of knowing our data since WE’RE ALL ANONYMOUS, and the only way to know them, is that we disclose ourselves so PLEASE, follow the rules … and do not give your personal INFORMATION …. please!!!!”

He didn’t need to mention the consequences, if an online critic of the drug lords is unmasked.

Update: Our original report named “Rascatripas” as a forum moderator for Nuevo Laredo in Vivo. That’s now appears to be off-base. At least one local reporter says there’s “no proof” yet that the decapitated man found Wednesday was actually murdered for his online activity. And administrators for Nuevo Laredo en Vivo now say that “Rascatripas” wasn’t one of theirs. “Negative,” they tweet (thanks to Xeni Jardin for the translation, and for the tip). “He was not our partner, he is confirmed to have been a scapegoat to scare others. The person executed is not a collaborator with our site, but this was without doubt an attempt to silence the voices of Nuevo Laredo.”

- Article originally from Wired Magazine.

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