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Mexico: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt over Anonymous’ #OpCartel

In recent days many media outlets have widely publicized news about a video by Anonymous Mexico threatening the Zetas cartel as a response to the kidnapping of one the former's members during #OpPaperStorm (‘Operation Paper Storm') in Veracruz.

Queremos que sepan que han secuestrado a uno de nuestros miembros mientras realizaba #opPaperstorm en nuestra ciudad. Exigimos su liberación [..] Queremos que la marina y el ejército sepan que estamos cansados del grupo delictivo de los Zetas que se han dedicado a secuestrar, robar y extorsionar en diferentes formas [..] Estamos cansados de los periodistas y periodicos de Jalapa, Veracruz, Córdoba y Orizaba ya que siempre tiran mierda a autoridades honestas como los militares y marinos. Estamos cansados de los taxistas, comandantes y polizetas municipales de Córdoba, Xalapa y Orizaba, Nogales y Río Blanco . Por el momento no publicaremos nombres y fotografías de los taxistas, periodistas o de los periodicos, tampoco de los policias..pero en caso de ser necesario los publicaremos y hasta con su dirección para ver si el gobierno los detiene. [..] Todos sabemos quienes son y en donde se encuentran. Cometieron un gran error al llevarse a uno de nosotros, liberenlo y si algo les pasa ustedes hijos de puta recordaran este 5 de noviembre.

We want you to know that one of our members has been kidnapped during #opPaperstorm in our city. We demand his liberation. [..] We want the army and the marines to know that we are tired of the criminal group Los Zetas that kidnap, steal and extortion in different forms [..] We are tired of the journalists and newspapers of Jalapa, Veracruz, Córdoba and Orizaba that always throw sh*t to honest authorities like the military and marines. We are tired of taxi drivers, commanders and polizetas of the municipalities of Córdoba, Xalapa, Orizaba, Nogales and Río Balnco. For the moment we won't publish the names and photographs of taxi drivers, journalists or newspapers, or police, but if it becomes necessary we will even publish their addresses to see if the government detains them. [..] We all know who they are and where they are. You made a mistake in taking one of us, release him and if something happens to him, you sons of a b****es will remember the 5th of November.

Fear, uncertainty and doubt

'Anonymous' mask. Image by Flickr user luccast85 (CC BY 2.0).

'Anonymous' mask. Image by Flickr user luccast85 (CC BY 2.0).

Newspaper El Universal [es] published the news two days ago under the headline “Hackers launch a threat against the Zeta's cartel”, whereby they stated that Anonymous has information on people who have colluded with ‘The Zetas'; the paper quotes the security research firm Stratfor, which believes that revealing this information will result in a new wave of assassinations.

A summary of the intel report by Stratfor states that:

The validity of the information Anonymous has threatened to reveal is uncertain, as it might not have been vetted. This could pose an indiscriminate danger to individuals mentioned in whatever Anonymous decides to release.

The full Stratfor Intel report can be found here.

Animal Político published the video by Anonymous [es] where they refer specifically to the situation in Veracruz; the video actually dates back to October 6, as the video's YouTube information points out:

Uploaded by MrAnonymousguyfawkes on Oct 6, 2011

Hacked page screenshot retrieved from Spiegel.de on Monday 31, October at 13:00.

Hacked page screenshot retrieved from Spiegel.de on Monday 31, October at 13:00.

Hours after the news of the video started to spread, reports of a hacked page also appeared. The site in question was www.gustavorosario.com [es], but Anonymous Mexico published a communique on Facebook denying their involvement [es]:

Estimados Seguidoras y seguidores de esta página. Por este conducto Anonymous México se deslinda completamente de la responsabilidad de la noticia de hackeo de una página que presuntamente está relacionada con el cártel de los Zetas [...] Nuestra lucha no es de este tipo y nuestros ideales no van con esa operación. La nota publicada por varios medios electrónicos es completamente falsa. Pedimos su apoyo para difundir este comunicado.

Dear Followers of this page. Through this medium Anonymous Mexico denies all responsibility about the news of the hacking of one page allegedly related to a cartel. [..] Our fight is not of this kind and our ideals are not in tune with that operation. The note published in many electronic media is completely false. We ask for your support in distributing this communique.

ABC [es], a newspaper from Spain, quotes a tweet by @anonymousIRC [es] from September 27, which has no relation to the Veracruz situation that the video mentions; in fact, it refers to Nuevo Laredo, a city in Tamaulipas:

Hola Cárteles Mexicanos de la Droga. Nosotros no olvidamos #NuevoLaredo #Anonymous

Hello Mexican Drug Cartels. http://bit.ly/pqSLIP We do not forget #NuevoLaredo #Anonymous

Internationally, Chron.com first published an article by the Houston Chronicle on Saturday, October 29, with mostly the same information, but also recognizing that:

The person reportedly kidnapped is not named, and the video does not share information about the kidnapping other than that it occurred in the Mexican state of Veracruz during a street protest.

Today, Mexican newspaper Milenio [es] published an article announcing that Anonymous’ #OpCartel was cancelled. The piece contains an interview with some alleged members of Anonymous Mexico who declared:

Siguen otras operaciones, pero por el momento esperamos que quede claro que Operación Cartel es falso.

Other operations are in progress, but for the moment we hope it is clear that OpCartel is false.

To add to the confusion, Anonymous Iberoamerica published a blog entry “About #opCartel” [es] where they recognize that the alleged operation has sparked criticism and they don't want to put anyone in risk. However, they state they will move forward with the operation:

¿Tenemos miedo? Claro. ¿Tememos por nuestras vidas? Evidentemente. No obstante, creemos que es tiempo de decir alto y basta a la terrible situación provocada por la falsedad de los gobiernos [..] han provocado una deplorable situación de ruina y desencanto en lugares como México, un país que se encuentra al borde del colapso, a sólo pasos de una aniquilación total, por la necedad del gobierno en atacar los síntomas del problema y no sus causas [...]

Nosotros seguiremos adelante con la operación, ya que así se nos ha solicitado. Para este fin, conformaremos una fuerza de tarea especial dedicada a este asunto. Sin embargo, requerimos de apoyo.

Are we afraid? Yes. Do we fear for our lives? Yes. But we believe that it is time to say stop and enough to this terrible situation provoked by the phoniness of governments [..] who have produced a grim situation of ruin and disenchantment in places like Mexico, a country that is on the brink of collapse, steps from total annihilation, because of the stubbornness of the government in attacking the problem and not the causes.

We will go forward with the operation because it's been solicited. To this end we will build a special task force dedicated to this issue. However, we need support.

Online reactions

Prominent and reliable journalists have accepted the inconsistencies in all this information. Shannon Young (@Syoungreports) asks:

Was the #OpCartel Anonymous Hackers vs. Zetas story a highly publicized hoax? Seems account which originated call @Sm0k34n0n is now deleted

In relation to this, the account is actually still active, but the previously mentioned Milenio interview [es] states that @Sm0k34n0n erased tweets related to the operation being cancelled:

@Sm0k34n0n y otros tuiteros borraron sus tuits sobre la operación cancelada y circularon que la operación continuaría:

“Detener #OpCartel con tanto entusiasmo es estar en complicidad con los Zetas”, manifestó @Sm0k34n0n horas más tarde.

@Sm0k34n0n and other Twitter users erased their tweets about the cancelled operation and said that it will continue:

“Stopping #opCartel with enthusiasm means to be in complicity with the Zetas.” stated @Sm0k34n0n hours later.

However, Milenio does not link to the tweets in question.

Journalist Daniel Hernandez (@longdrivesouth) tweets:

There are inconsistencies in links/track/webbing of the supposed #Anonymous threat to the #Zetas. I can't verify the components. #opcartel

Blogger @ThinkMexican also warns:

There are conflicting reports being published. It's possible the story was fabricated; not #Anonymous. Follow #OpCartel for updates.

Media outlets worldwide like The Guardian, Gawker, Wired, Salon and The Telegraph reproduced the news containing dubious information, which has unfortunately already spread.

The blog TestHats offers a much needed and so far absent criticism. The post calls Anonymous to not take over this operation which the Test Hat Team considers “an incredible and unexpected twist in the world of Hacktivism”:

We commend anyone making a stand against criminal gangs and those who disrupt the norms of society and the right to live peacefully.

However, we DO NOT agree that #OpCartel moving into Dox’ing Zeta is appropriate. We encourage Anonymous to cancel the operation and act at a level appropriate to the processes of Hacktivism. We're very very worried about well intentioned individuals getting hurt, please be careful.

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