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With Journalists Targeted In Mexico's Drug War, Social Networks Step In



MEXICO CITY – Ciudad Victoria, a city in one of the most dangerous states in Mexico today, Tamaulipas, was recently flooded with brochures offering money for information on the people behind a project called "Valor por Tamaulipas" (Courage for Tamaulipas).

The project is indeed courageous, aiming to diffuse information regarding violence in the state, through social networks, like Facebook and Twitter. Valor por Tamaulipas offers practical information about what streets or neighborhoods to steer clear, the place where people are being mugged, reports of extortion or information about missing people. The project has into a veritable local media outlet that reflects the situation of insecurity in the state.

La Crónica reports that the brochures that appeared throughout Ciudad Victoria read: “600,000 pesos for the people who will bring us information regarding the owners of the website Valor por Tamaulipas or in that case, any of their family members.”

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“Social networks without a doubt have become an information apparatus, while journalism is cornered and silenced” said Darío Ramírez, director for “México y Centroamérica de Artículo 19”, an organization that defends freedom of expression in Mexico and Central America.

Mexico is the second most dangerous country for journalists according to Reporters Without Borders. Since 2000, 93 journalists have been murdered in Mexico, 76 since 2006, when ex-president Felipe Calderón declared the “frontal fight against drugs,” the Press Emblem Campaign recently reported.

In July 2012, El Mañana, Nuevo Laredo’s Daily announced that they would stop publishing information regarding violent acts produced by criminal gangs after their headquarters was attacked with grenades for the second time in the year.

El Excelsior reports that faced with such a scenario, the anonymity granted by the Internet provides an alternative for people eager to inform and be informed about violence in their cities. Dozens of websites, blogs and social media profiles have sprung up to cover many events that traditional media may find difficult to report.

Unfortunately, the identity of the people behind these new media outlets is never 100% safe either. In late 2011, four people were murdered in the city of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas for denouncing organized crime actions through a blog. Two of them were hung from a bridge and another two decapitated with messages that read: “for typing too much”.

Given the situation, Valor por Tamaulipas, responded “I will not play hero, I play the hopeful believer that is clinging to the hope that one day this will change.”

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How Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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