If you were the son of a renowned Mexican drug trafficking outlaw, what photos would you post on your Facebook and Twitter pages? Perhaps fat bundles of cash stacked to the ceiling, gold-plated assault rifles, zip-lock bags brimming with weed, tricked-out dune buggies, and of course, your pet lions and tigers. Most likely, your Facebook profile photo would be a picture of you holding a large assault rifle in front of a luxury vehicle.
My point: Even those involved in narco trafficking love social media. (You can even friend them on Facebook – or reply to their tweets.) The clans of the rich and famous – who are on the lam from the law – love showing off their lavish wealth.
The arrest last week of 23-year old Serafin Zambada Ortiz, brought to light the social media accounts of family members of Mexico’s most powerful crime syndicate. Ortiz is the son of Sinaloa cartel leader Ismael Zambada – and his Twitter selfie photos look like something right out of Scarface. (You can follow him @zambadaserafin.)
This past July, Zambada tweeted a photo of three gold- and silverplated AK-47 assault rifles. His message read, “partying and . . . taking care of ourselves.”
The following day, Zambada posted photos of huge stacks of bundled 500 peso notes (each worth nearly $40) several feet high. In fact, there was so much cash that Zambada found a more efficient way than counting to determine its value. His tweet: “Weighing the cash.”
Indiscretion is not the order of the day; other Twitter photos include: bags of marijuana, a pet cheetah, a tiger cub, a full-grown lion, a new Range Rover piled high with presents, and lots and lots of guns.
In another classic Facebook photo, Zambada hugs a lion in front of a Mercedes-Benz. (Why does the drug cartel love lions so much?) He also has Facbook/Twitter friends, such as Alfredo Guzman (@alfredoguzma); son of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, head of the Sinaloa Cartel. (The U.S. Department of Justice has a $5 million price tag on his head.)
His Twitter photos include a private grass airstrip with small aircraft, a huge teddy bear propped up holding an assault rifle, and aphoto of a dead man – who was said to have tried to pass himself off as part of the Guzman clan and paid the price.
In an age where your average person can get fired from a job at Jack in the Box for racy photos they post online, how does it play out when offspring of some of the most notorious men in the drug cartel post boastful photos on social networks that bring attention to their drugs, money, and lavish lifestyles?
“My contact told me he disapproved because he got the word directly from El Chapo to ‘watch what you make public,’ says Jim Creechan, a Canadian academic who once taught university courses in Culiacan. One of his former students, a relative of a cartel operative, showed him some Facebook pages of young members displaying bling. “My contact also told me that he was told to stay away from drugs, and to never bring attention to himself. He basically said, ‘Do drugs or point to us and you are ‘cut off’ or ‘worse.’”
If you’re going to boast about the narco lifestyle, at least make sure you’re part of narcocorrido, the musical form that glamorizes gangsters, guns and the bloodthirsty killing. Consider it the gangsta’ rap of Mexico: