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Mexico's drug war hits YouTube (again) as cartel boss photos go viral

Mexico's federal prosecutor's office discovered on YouTube photos of the alleged leader of the Tijuana Cartel, showing him posing on a beach and riding in a boat, and reposted them on its Most-Wanted website.

By Nacha CattanCorrespondent / January 18, 2011



Mexico City

It seems no one is safe from exposure on the Internet. Not even the most feared and secretive Mexican drug gangs.

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Mexico’s federal prosecutor’s office discovered on YouTube recent photos of the alleged leader of the Tijuana Cartel and posted them to its Most Wanted website. The photos went viral Tuesday and have been circulated on the Internet by major newspapers.

The photos verified by the prosecutor’s office are of Fernando Sánchez Arellano, alleged leader of the Arellano Félix Cartel, also known as the Tijuana Cartel. Mr. Sánchez Arellano allegedly took control after most of his uncles were either arrested or killed. (Editor's Note: Two days after this article was published, the photos were revealed to be a hoax. Read the Monitor's follow-up.)

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A baby-faced Sánchez Arellano is shown posing with a young woman in romantic settings on the beach, in a boat, and on an all-terrain vehicle (see video). The slideshow is a rare peek into the highly guarded private life of alleged drug kingpins, whose most-wanted photos are often taken from mug shots or from a distance.

The more intimate shots of Sánchez Arellano may not have been uploaded with his consent, demonstrating once again the perils to privacy so often associated with social networks and user-generated content, some analysts say.

“What often happens among young people is that they tend to upload photos of their events,” says Jose Ramos, security expert at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana. “This situation can happen at a very private party when someone knows [a drug trafficker] or recognizes them. That’s the risk generated by these types of networks.”

Ramos warned, however, that data gleaned from social networks must be diligently verified before authorities can use it, which the prosecutor’s office says it has done.

YouTube: cyber-front in the Mexico drug war

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