Citizens challenge media silence on Matamoros war

Three gun-battles in one day left at least 13 dead in the Mexican border city of Matamoros Nov. 2, Tamaulipas state authorities acknowledged. A statement from the Tamaulipas Coordination Group—the liaison office between state and federal forces—said two of the shoot-outs were between Mexican Marines and "armed civilians," the standard euphemism for cartel gunmen. One woman was among the 13 dead, who were also identified as "civilians"—leaving it unclear if they were combatants or by-standers. What press accounts called "narco-blockades" cut off traffic on the city's principal avenues. (Global Post, Crónica de Hoy, Nov. 4; Proceso, Nov. 3) Nov. 11 saw another outburst in the neighboring border city of Reynosa, with federal forces and presumed cartel gunmen having a high-speed shoot-out in a car chase through several neighborhoods. Allegedly, only one of the gunmen was killed, but video footage provided by the Facebook-coordinated network Valor por Tamaulipas showed a car overturned in road pile-up. (El Diario de Coahuila, Nov. 11)

For citizen activists in bleeding Tamaulipas, it was actually a win to get national press coverage of these incidents. Tamaulipas is the most violent state in Mexico, and Matamoros—just across the Rio Grande from Brownsville—has been for years now habitually torn by urban warfare. Yet Tamaulipas gets the least press play of any state within Mexico, due to a media blackout imposed by the cartels—they've declared open season on journalists, and explicitly warned newspapers not to cover the narco-violence. With reporters from Mexico's national media outlets staying away and the local Tamaulipas papers running only prosaic gossip as if everything were normal, it has fallen to bloggers, "citizen journalists" and local activists to get the word out.

Nov. 11 also saw a deadly riot at the Reynosa State Prison, where the six men were killed with makeshift shanks—the latest outburst of now practically routine deadly prison violence in Tamaulipas. (The Monitor, McAllen, TX, Nov. 11) Although accounts did not name the rival gangs, the riot was almost certainly related to the struggle between the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas for control of the Tamaulipas "plaza" (sphere of narco-trafficking operations).

Cross-post to Global Ganja Report and High Times  

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