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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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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