Mexico’s northeastern border state of Tamaulipas, right on the South Texas border, continues to suffer the worst of the narco-violence that has been tearing the country apart for years — but with little media attention, as the local press is too terrorized by the cartels to even cover them. Now, courageous “citizen journalists” who have been picking up the slack are being targeted.
The Daily Beast on Oct. 21 noted the case of a crusading micro-blogger in the border town of Reynosa who went by the handle “Felina” (@Miut3) and used a photo of Catwoman as her Twitter avatar. Felina was an administrator of reader-generated Valor por Tamaulipas, which aggressively reports the frequent shoot-outs, slayings and abductions—in defiance of threats from the narcos. Last year, one narco-gang even distributed leaflets throughout Tamaulipas offering a reward of 600,000 pesos (about $48,000) for anyone who would reveal the names of the site’s administrators. Finally, on Oct. 8, Valor por Tamaulipas received the following tweet: “We’re coming very close to many of you watch out felina.” It proved not to be a bluff…
Oct. 16, a new tweet from Felina’s account read: “FRIENDS AND FAMILY, MY REAL NAME IS MARÍA DEL ROSARIO FUENTES RUBIO. I AM A PHYSICIAN. TODAY MY LIFE HAS COME TO AN END.” Another message, sent moments later, warned her colleagues not to make the same mistake she did, saying, “there is no point.” A final tweet consisted of two photos: one of a middle-aged woman looking blankly at the camera; in a second, the same woman lies on a dirty floor with a coup de grace bullet wound in her face. The founder of Valor por Tamaulipas (anonymous, of course) confirmed that the photos are of Felina.
It is unknown how Felina’s identity was discovered, but it is assumed that the humiliating final tweets were written by her captors. Valor por Tamaulipas posted a statement expressing grief at the loss of “an angel who gave everything, her life, her future, her safety and peace, she gave it all for the good people of our state.” It affirmed: “Today Miut3 ceased to report. But what the criminals don’t know is that Miut3 is part of our soul and she will never permit us to surrender to organized crime. She will never surrender, and how disappointed she would feel knowing that a single one of all those whom she helped were to succumb.”
Other victims of the relentless Tamaulipas terror came to light in subsequent days — this time making headlines because they were from the US. On Oct. 29, four bodies were found east of Matamaros, near where three members of a Texas family went missing some two weeks earlier. Tamaulipas state authorities said investigators were trying to determine if the dead include three siblings from Progreso, Tex., who disappeared with a fourth person Oct. 13. Raquel Alvarado, the mother of the missing Texans, has said witnesses saw armed men take her daughter and two sons, all in their 20s, in El Control, just west of Matamoros. The three had crossed over to visit their father on the Mexican side.
Witnesses reported they were seized by men dressed in police gear marked “Grupo Hercules” – a reference to the Matamoros Hercules Tactical Operations Group (GTOHM), an elite police unit created by the city government. It is unclear if the men were actually members of the Grupo Hercules, or had managed to acquire or forge their uniforms. But the GTOHM has won a long list of citizen complaints of abuse and brutality since it began operations in June — pointing to the grim reality that the line between cops and criminals is a porous one in Tamaulipas.