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.

Getty
Show Hide image

A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear