On one level, the incident can be interpreted as further proof that a new front in the "drug war" has opened up on the Internet. Increasingly, Mexican drug trafficking organizations have been using the web to threaten rivals, proclaim their innocence, and brag about their exploits.Web page comments, YouTube videos, and Twitter feeds have all been employed by Mexican cartels to communicate with the public. But as the deaths of the bloggers in Nuevo Laredo illustrate, this virtual battleground can have very real consequences.
On another level, the incident is an illustration of the role that fear plays in the Zetas' exercise of power. Anonymous members' doubts about the operation are well-founded, as the Zetas are generally thought of as the most dangerous drug cartel in Mexico, who carry out brutal public revenge on their enemies. But as the hacking collective decided to go through with the operation, the Zetas could be in a highly vulnerable position. If they give in to Anonymous' demands and free the kidnapping victim – presuming he or she exists – then they risk opening themselves up to further challenges to their authority.
This is especially important to the Zetas, as they don't have the support base that other groups (like the Sinaloa Cartel in the Sierra Madre, or the once-mighty Familia Michoacana in Michoacan) possess. Conversely, if they don't turn over the kidnapping victim, then they risk damaging much of the connections that keep their business together in the Veracruz area.
--- Geoffrey Ramsey is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas , which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of his research here .