Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Anonymous

Back in 2008, Mexican officials called on the people of Mexico to rise up and do their part against organized crime. Report incidents and suspicious activity, top officials urged. It's up to you to fight organized crime, not us.

At the time, the request seemed a little off colour, ridiculous even. Tens of thousands of people were dying, shootouts in public places were becoming more common.

But the government was right: the people had to do something, at the very least gain confidence in their ability to report crimes and not become victims themselves.

The authorities set up some anonymous hotlines in cities like Culiacan, Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez. They got some calls. Some tips were worth acting on. Then the calls stopped coming.

The callers were getting killed. The local police were simply noting down the numbers of the callers, checking in the phone company, and passing a list of the numbers/names off to the narcos.

Human rights activists caught wind of it, and warned the brave folks who still might dare to report illicit activity: call from a payphone. Never use your home phone or mobile. Never give your real name. Don't stay on the line too long.

The denuncias anonimas kept coming. They still are to this day. There have been few reprisals that I know of.

That's what the authorities had in mind when they called on people to take matters into their own hands.

The video released by people purporting to be the hacker group Anonymous is an interesting new twist. Reporting information about a shootout on twitter is one thing, threatening the Zetas head-on is another. I still am not quite sure what this group hopes to achieve. Los Zetas can track hackers if they are local. They don't really care about the names of officials being publicized, because most people already assume who is involved, thanks to the Mexican penchant for secretos a voces. Publishing names anonymously might implicate someone who is not a criminal; at best, it will only likely reaffirm the public's suspicions about official so-and-so. Hard evidence, if the group has it, should go straight to the federal authorities – perhaps on the condition that if the authorities do nothing, the group will publish it, if trust in said authorities is lacking.

Going after Los Zetas, as many commentators have already written, could be really dangerous. There is no clear goal, and Los Zetas, let's remember, do not hesitate to behead people when they deem it necessary.

I want the violence in Mexico to end just as much as the next guy. But the only thing I can see coming out of the Anonymous threat is more violence. I cannot see a serious challenge to Los Zetas anywhere in this.

I welcome comments, particularly from people who have been to Veracruz recently or actually, anywhere in Zeta territory, because it's been a few years since I was there.

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