Monday, May 19, 2008


The job offer was tempting. It was printed on a 16-foot-wide banner and strung above one of the busiest roads here, calling out to any "soldier or ex-soldier." "We're offering you a good salary, food and medical care for your families," it said in block letters. But there was a catch: The employer was Los Zetas, a notorious Gulf cartel hit squad formed by elite Mexican army deserters. The group even included a phone number for job seekers that linked to a voice mailbox. Outrageous as they seem, drug cartel messages such as the banner hung here late last month are becoming increasingly common along the violence-savaged U.S.-Mexico border and in other parts of the region. As soldiers wage a massive campaign against drug trafficking across Mexico, they are encountering an information war managed by criminal networks that operate with near impunity. The cartels' appeals - which authorities generally believe to be authentic recruitment efforts - seem designed in part to taunt a military plagued by at least 100,000 desertions in the past eight years. Even though the drug war has traumatized Mexicans, cartels still use bravado and a dash of humor to gain supporters. The Nuevo Laredo banner, for instance, promised that the cartels would not feed new recruits instant noodle soup, an allusion to the cheap and frequently mocked meals that many poor soldiers are forced to eat and that the government often provides to stranded migrants.

Hat tip, Randall Parker!

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