by Kristin Bricker
In some northern Mexican cities, shootouts and dumped cadavers have been relatively common occurrences since President Felipe Calderón declared war on drug trafficking in late 2006. However, in mid-2009, drug war mayhem took a new twist: narco-blockades. In Monterrey and Reynosa, two northern cities notoriously replete with organized crime, drug traffickers began to organize blockades that paralyzed entire sections of those cities. The blockades are sometimes in retaliation for the detention of important organized crime figures. In other cases, they are organized to prevent the police and military from acting against drug traffickers.
Often, during the blockades gunmen order civilians out of their vehicles. The gunmen then use the vehicles to block key roads or intersections, and sometimes they set the vehicles on fire. Shootouts with automatic assault rifles are common occurrences at the blockades.
In Reynosa and Monterrey, citizens have begun to use the online social networking service Twitter to alert fellow residents of potentially dangerous situations such as shootouts and blockades. Twitter allows users to send out 140-character messages to their “followers.” It also allows users to create topics called “hash tags” by preceding words with a hash symbol (#). The way in which Twitter organizes information allows users to communicate and disseminate very short messages very quickly.
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