Blog del Narco: madness, mutilation and murder in Mexico

One blog’s graphic chronicle of Mexico’s war on drugs.

For the past four years, Mexico has been fighting an increasingly bloody war on drugs. Twenty-eight thousand people have been killed since President Felipe Calderón launched his crackdown on the drug cartels in 2006. "Lost cities", such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, are practically run by the leading drug cartels.

Despite occurring often just a few miles from the border, this war goes largely unreported. Comprehensive coverage of the events is nigh-on impossible, mainly because journalists who report on the cartels' activities have a very short lifespan.

Eleven journalists have been killed this year alone. After a second journalist was murdered, El Diario took the unprecedented step of publishing a front-page editorial, addressed to the local drug cartel and entitled: "What do you want from us?"

You are, at present, the de facto authorities in this city because the legal institutions have not been able to keep our colleagues from dying.

We do not want more deaths. We do not want more injuries or even more intimidation. It is impossible to exercise our role in these conditions. Tell us, then, what do you expect of us as a medium?

Journalists cannot do their job when placed in such danger. There is, however, some hope for Mexican journalism. One blog single-handedly provides a visceral and at times horrifying insight into Mexico's drug war.

Blog del Narco (warning: extremely violent images) chronicles Mexico's current struggle. It is a rolling news source, with basic reports, images and videos and little in the way of comment or analysis.

To say that the blog's coverage is raw is an understatement. It is visceral and undigested. This is news unprocessed, unadulterated and uncensored. Where a news editor would cut away, Blog del Narco's footage lingers. Decapitations are not described, they are pictured. It's unapologetically violent. The blog's raison d'être is simple: to reflect what is happening.

The author explained this mentality further in a recent interview:

The idea to create the Blog del Narco came because the media and government in Mexico try to pretend that NOTHING IS HAPPENING, because the media are intimidated and the government has apparently been bought. So we decided to tell people what is actually happening and tell the stories exactly as they happen, without alteration or modifications of convenience. The main goal of the blog is to help Mexican people to take all necessary measures against the insecurity.

In the same interview, the author of the blog was asked whether publishing such explicitly violent images and videos -- often provided by the cartels perpetrating the violence -- was "irresponsible".

People have a right to know why things have become so insecure in recent years. The violence that is happening in Mexico is not because the public reads about what is happening in BlogdelNarco.com

The content of the blog's videos is frankly horrifying. Limbs litter streets. Bullethole-riddled 4x4s contain blood-spattered corpses. One shows the interrogation of three government hitmen before their execution. The camera did not cut away. Instead, the viewer witnessed the lives of three men being ended.

Whether this footage is necessary or gratuitous is unclear. Audiences do not need to see men meet their end, but to cut away would have an element of dishonesty. Blog del Narco is there only to reflect what is happening -- and executions such as this one occur in Mexico nearly every day.

One thing sticks out about this video. The comment thread for the footage of the execution had 1,265 entries and 117 "Likes". This is news for a generation seemingly immune to violence. If not immune, then certainly willing to watch.

Duncan Robinson also blogs here. You can follow him on Twitter, too.

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Winning Scottish independence will be even harder than before - but it may be the only choice

Independence campaigners will have to find answers on borders, currency and more. 

The Brexit mutiny has taken not just the UK economy and its relationship with Europe into uncharted waters. it has also imperilled the union between Scotland and England. From Sir John Major to the First Minister, both Unionists and Nationalists had warned of it. The outcome, though, has made this certain. The Leave vote in England and Wales contrasted with an overwhelming Remain vote north of the border.

That every region in Scotland voted to stay In was quite remarkable. Historically, fishing and industrial communities have blamed the European Union for their woes. That antagonism was probably reflected in lower turnout - an abstention rather than a rejection. 

The talk now is of a second referendum on independence. This is understandable given the current mood. Opinion polls in the Sunday Times and Sunday Post showed a Yes vote now at 52 per cent and 59 per cent respectively. Moreover, anecdotal evidence suggests even arch No vote campaigners, from JK Rowling to the Daily Record, are considering the option.

The First Minister was therefore correct to say that a second referendum is now “back on the table”. Her core supporters expects no less. However, as with the economy and Europe, the constitutional relationship between Scotland and England is now in uncharted seas. Potential support for independence may be higher, but the challenges are arguably bigger than before. The difficulties are practical, political and geographic.

Of course the Little Englanders likely to take the helm may choose a velvet divorce. However, given their desire for the return of the Glories of Britannia that’s improbable. They’re as likely to wish to see Caledonia depart, as cede Gibraltar to Spain, even though that territory voted even more overwhelmingly In.

Ticking the legal boxes

Practically, there’s the obstacle of obtaining a legal and binding referendum. The past vote was based on the Edinburgh Agreement and legislation in Westminster and Holyrood. The First Minister has indicated the democratic arguments of the rights of the Scots. However, that’s unlikely to hold much sway. A right-wing centralist Spanish government has been willing to face down demands for autonomy in Catalonia. Would the newly-emboldened Great Britain be any different?

There are no doubt ways in which democratic public support can be sought. The Scottish Government may win backing in Holyrood from the Greens. However, consent for such action would need to be obtained from the Presiding Officer and the Lord Advocate, both of whom have a key role in legislation. These office holders have changed since the first referendum, where they were both more sympathetic and the legal basis clearer. 

Getting the EU on side

The political hurdles are, also, greater this time than before. Previously the arguments were over how and when Scotland could join the EU, although all accepted ultimately she could remain or become a member. This time the demand is that Scotland should remain and the rest of the UK can depart. But will that be possible? The political earthquake that erupted south of the Border has set tectonic plates shifting, not just in the British isles but across the European continent. The fear that a Brexit would empower dark forces in the EU may come to pass. Will the EU that the UK is about to leave be there for an independent Scotland to join? We cannot know, whatever European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker may be saying at the moment. The First Minister is right to start engaging with Europe directly. But events such as elections in France and the Netherlands are outwith her control. 

Moreover, currency was the Achilles heel in the last referendum, and hasn’t yet been addressed. George Osborne was adamant in his rejection of a currency union. The options this time round, whether a separate Scottish currency or joining the euro, have yet to be properly explored. A worsened financial situation in the 27 remaining EU members hampers the latter and the former remains politically problematic. 

The problem of borders

Geography is also an obstacle  that will be even harder to address now than before. Scotland can change its constitution, but it cannot alter its location on a shared island. In 2014, the independence argument was simply about changing the political union. Other unions, whether monarchy or social, would remain untouched. The island would remain seamless, without border posts. An independent Scotland, whether in or out of the EU, would almost certainly have to face these issues. That is a significant change from before, and the effect on public opinion unknown.

The risk that's worth it

Ultimately, the bar for a Yes vote may be higher, but the Scots may still be prepared to jump it. As with Ireland in 1920, facing any risk may be better than remaining in the British realm. Boris Johnson as Prime Minister would certainly encourage that. 

David Cameron's lack of sensitivity after the independence referendum fuelled the Scottish National Party surge. But perhaps this time, the new Government will be magnanimous towards Scotland and move to federalism. The Nordic Union offers an example to be explored. Left-wing commentators have called for a progressive alliance to remove the Tories and offer a multi-option referendum on Scotland’s constitution. But that is dependent on SNP and Labour being prepared to work together, and win the debate in England and Wales.

So, Indy Ref The Sequel is on the table. It won’t be the same as the first, and it will be more challenging. But, if there is no plausible alternative, Scots may consider it the only option.

Kenny MacAskill served as a Scottish National MSP between 2007 and 2016, and as Cabinet Secretary for Justice between 2007 and 2014.