On April 27, 2014, these images were circulated through drug war social media. The narcomessage appearing with the body reads as follows:
ESTE ES EL MAL DE LA CIUDADANIA Y DEL
GOBIERNO Y ES UNA PRUEBA MAS QUE
EL CARTEL DEL GOLFO NO COMPARTE NI
PERMITE LAS EXTORSIONES, SECUESTROS,
MOLESTAR A LA CIUDADANIA NI PELEAR CON EL GOBERNO.
ESTA PERSONA ES EL LLAMADO
ERICK O EL MONO
EL QUE ESTABA CAUSANDO EL MAL.
EL CARTEL DEL GOLFO ESTA PARA
PROTEGER A LA POBLACION Y ACABAR CON
TODOS LOS SECUESTRO,EXTORSIONES,
ROBOS,ASESINATOS DE GENTES INOCENTES.
AQUI DENTRO DEL CARTEL
NO CABEN LOS PASADOS DE VERGAS.
AQUI DENTRO DEL CARTEL DEL GOLFO
GENTE DEL COMANDANTE METRO 3 Y METRO 4
ATTE.: LOS METROS
The following translation was offered by Borderlandbeat.com :
This is what was causing harm to the people and
the government and it is further proof that the CDG
doesn’t allow extortion, kidnappings, and harming the population
or fighting against the government.
This person’s name is Erick or El Mono. [note: “the monkey”]
He was the one causing trouble.
The Gulf Cartel is here to protect the population and finish off
all the kidnappings, extortion, robberies, and
killing of innocent people.
P.O.S like these have no place in this cartel.
People of Comanadante Metro 3 and Metro 4
Atte: Los Metros
Contextualizing the message
Factors relevant to interpreting the propaganda value of this message include, but are not limited to:
The territorial dispute between the Gulf Cartel (Cartel del Golfo, henceforth “CDG”) and Los Zetas,
the recurrent pattern of infighting within the CDG,
its historical associations with kidnapping and extortion,
and organizational challenges facing CDG leadership.
Throughout April, 2014, rival factions within the CDG have been fighting against one another over a leadership succession dispute.
Such infighting draws upon various methods, ranging from direct violence to intelligence on rivals provided to police, military, or other enemies. Authorities have used such information to locate and rescue at least 179 individuals who appear to have been kidnapped and held for purposes of extortion (i.e., ransom collection) by members of the Gulf Cartel.
Notably, this message was signed by one particular faction of the CDG – Los Metros. This raises the question of whether they were purifying their own ranks of an extortionist, purifying a rival faction, or killing someone from a rival faction and deceptively framing it as punishment for extortion. In any case, framing the death as punishment for kidnapping and extortion is obviously intended to gain popularity with Mexico’s public, which is disgusted with the CDG for its historical association with those crimes within Mexico.
Popular association of the CDG with kidnapping and extortion
Kidnapping and extortion has become recognized as a low risk venture, particularly when the kidnapped party is not returned alive. That tragic conclusion is the norm rather than the exception in Mexico. Kidnappers and extortionists are now among the most detested of criminal types in the eyes of Mexico’s populace. Many of Mexico’s cartels (perhaps all of them) are, or have been, involved with kidnapping and extortion due to its potential for easily and rapidly generating large amounts of money. Not all cartels are equally recognized in the public’s eyes as being associated with those crimes. The CDG, however, is infamous for its history of kidnapping and extorting illegal Central American migrants and Mexican citizens across the economic spectrum. Public outrage toward the CDG has recurrently prompted authorities to focus repressive efforts against that organization. The recent discovery of those kidnapped victims (many of whom were migrants) precipitated Mexican authorities announcing a list of cartel leaders (from the CDG and its rival, Los Zetas) prioritized for capture. All factions of the CDG are now endangered by this repression, and have an interest in satiating the public’s outrage to make it go away.
The CDG correctly recognizes it is endangered by public perception of being associated with kidnapping and extortion, and is wise to attempt to alter that image. While this narcomessage strikes several of the right notes required for that strategy, it will be quite difficult to break its association with those crimes…. Even if that were genuinely desired by CDG leadership.
Organizational Constraints that would make it difficult for CDG leadership to prevent kidnapping and extortion by its own operatives
The sheer size and fluid nature of cartel organizational structure makes it practically impossible for upper CDG leadership to continually monitor all subordinates for possible extortion activities. The compartmentalization of sub-groups around specific purposes and multiple layers of authority do isolate leaders from certain dangerous aspects of their business, but also would make it difficult for them to enforce a moratorium on those crimes.
Additionally, public perception of who is “in” the CDG isn’t always straightforward. This is partly because the CDG (like other cartels) contracts some work to common street thugs and other independent criminals who – unbeknownst to the cartel – may be kidnapping and extorting on their own initiative in addition to acting on the cartel’s behalf.
Territorial dispute with Los Zetas
Most CDG territory (in Northeastern Mexico) is disputed with Los Zetas, which also has been known to kidnap and extort. This can make it more challenging for CDG leadership to determine who is responsible for a kidnapping within their own territory.
The CDG will remain imperiled by its association with kidnapping and extortion for the foreseeable future
The CDG has a real problem in its publically perceived connection with kidnapping and extortion. The above images and narcomessage, in which the CDG claims to protect Mexico’s public by punishing an extortionist within its own ranks, is strategically sound in principle. However, a great deal of sustained effort to actually prevent its operatives from committing those crimes must be achieved – and sustained for a prolonged period of time – before messages such as this will be credible in the eyes of Mexico’s public. Without actual changes in the organization’s relationship to kidnapping and extortion, and unless recognition of such changes become widespread among the public, propaganda like this will simply erode what credibility the CDG retains beyond its ability to terrorize its enemies and the public. Certain facts of cartel organization, its reliance on external operatives, and the territorial dispute with Los Zetas will make it unlikely kidnappings and extortions in will stop in the foreseeable future within CDG territory, and should it attempt to do so, very difficult for the CDG to break its perceived connection with those stigmatized crimes.