Things That Matter

Lifestyles Of The Rich And Dangerous: Cartels Are Using TikTok To Lure Young People

If you’ve ever wondered what someone with a bulletproof vest and an AR-15 would look like flossing — the dance, not the method of dental hygiene — apparently the answer to that question can be found on TikTok.

Unfortunately, it’s not as a part of some absurdist sketch comedy or surreal video art installation. Instead, it’s part of a growing trend of drug cartels in Mexico using TikTok as a marketing tool. Nevermind the fact that Mexico broke grim records last year for the number of homicides and cartel violence, the cartels have found an audience on TikTok and that’s a serious cause for concern.

Mexican cartels are using TikTok to gain power and new recruits.

Just a couple of months ago, a TikTok video showing a legit high-speed chase between police and drug traffickers went viral. Although it looked like a scene from Netflix’s Narcos series, this was a very real chase in the drug cartel wars and it was viewed by more than a million people.

Typing #CartelTikTok in the social media search bar brings up thousands of videos, most of them from people promoting a “cartel culture” – videos with narcocorridos, and presumed members bragging about money, fancy cars and a luxury lifestyle.

Viewers no longer see bodies hanging from bridges, disembodied heads on display, or highly produced videos with messages to their enemies. At least not on TikTok. The platform is being used mainly to promote a lifestyle and to generate a picture of luxury and glamour, to show the ‘benefits’ of joining the criminal activities.

According to security officials, the promotion of these videos is to entice young men who might be interested in joining the cartel with images of endless cash, parties, military-grade weapons and exotic pets like tiger cubs.

Cartels have long used social media to shock and intimidate their enemies.

And using social media to promote themselves has long been an effective strategy. But with Mexico yet again shattering murder records, experts on organized crime say Cartel TikTok is just the latest propaganda campaign designed to mask the blood bath and use the promise of infinite wealth to attract expendable young recruits.

“It’s narco-marketing,” said Alejandra León Olvera, an anthropologist at Spain’s University of Murcia, in a statement to the New York Times. The cartels “use these kinds of platforms for publicity, but of course it’s hedonistic publicity.”

Mexico used to be ground zero for this kind of activity, where researchers created a new discipline out of studying these narco posts. Now, gangs in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, and the United States are also involved.

A search of the #CartelTikTok community and its related accounts shows people are responding. Public comments from users such as “Y’all hiring?” “Yall let gringos join?” “I need an application,” or “can I be a mule? My kids need Christmas presents,” are on some of the videos.

One of the accounts related to this cartel community publicly answered: “Of course, hay trabajo para todos,” “I’ll send the application ASAP.” “How much is the pound in your city?” “Follow me on Instagram to talk.” The post, showing two men with $100 bills and alcohol, had more than a hundred comments.

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Meet ‘Padre Cheke,’ The Mexican Priest Combining Religion And Tech On TikTok

Culture

Meet ‘Padre Cheke,’ The Mexican Priest Combining Religion And Tech On TikTok

Padre Cheke / Instagram

A Mexican priest has turned to social media to meet young people where they are – on TikTok. He’s using the popular social media app to help “bring young people closer to God” and him becoming an actual influencer in the process is just a coincidence. But a very successful one at that.

Known as Padre Cheke, the priest from Puebla already has nearly one million followers on TikTok and has gained millions of likes on his videos. So just what does a Catholic priest upload to TikTok?

Padre Cheke is a massive hit on TikTok for uploading religious content.

Ezequiel Padilla is “Padre Cheke,” a Catholic priest and rector of the Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and San Cayetano in Puebla. He is also a new star of TikTok. He currently has almost 700,000 followers and 3.2 million likes on his platform.

Padre Cheke has become famous for using TikTok trends and using them to give religious messages to his followers and anyone who comes across his videos.

With the onset of the pandemic and confinement, Father Cheke decided to implement new strategies to keep people from turning away from religion. After returning to Mexico following a formation meeting in Italy, the priest became interested in this platform.  “In those days was that I downloaded the application, because I saw some stories on social networks and from there I started to make TikToks. I did not know how but little by little I was learning,” said the TikToker.

At 48 years old, the priest pointed out that when he noticed that one of his videos went viral and went from 60 followers to 10,000 followers in a very short time, he understood the power of social media.

Ezequiel feels that religion is not at odds with daily life and he uses TikTok to share that message.

Father Cheke does it all for TikTok. He dances, sings and interprets his videos with a lot of ease. He also lip synchs to dubbed videos, follows trendy choreography and viral songs, sometimes alone and sometimes with members of his congregation.

I mean who wouldn’t love a padre doing TikTok?!

Due to the great impact of social media, he has become a viral character and even has his own hashtag,#ChekeTokers, which has already been and will probably continue to trend throughout Mexico and, if he has his way, around the world.

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A New Map Shows Where Cartels Have Control In The U.S. But Cartel Bosses Say It’s All Wrong

Things That Matter

A New Map Shows Where Cartels Have Control In The U.S. But Cartel Bosses Say It’s All Wrong

John Moore/Getty Images

It’s long been known that international drug cartels operate within the United States. Cartels from across the world have setup shop in major cities across the country to help ensure they can move product from manufacturing bases in Latin America and Asia to consumer markets from Los Angeles to New York.

And now a new report from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) allegedly shows the extent of these operations and where certain cartels have more authority. But not everyone is buying the data, including the cartels themselves who are disputing the report.

A DEA report on drugs and drug trafficking details what the agency calls cartel influence in the US.

The DEA recently released its annual National Drug Threat Assessment, in which it maps out the states where Mexican drug cartels have gained “influence.”

The DEA’s report said Mexican transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) “maintain great influence” in most US states, with the Sinaloa cartel and the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación showing the “biggest signs of expansion.”

A map included in the report labeled the Sinaloa cartel, Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, Cartel del Golfo, Organización de Beltran-Leyva, and Los Rojos as the most “influential” drug organizations, with presence in Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Chicago, New York, Florida, Kansas, Colorado, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

When they were asked about that depiction of cartel presence in the US, security experts and cartel sources told Insider “it’s bulls—.”

So where do these cartels allegedly have the most influence?

DEA map cartel influence in US

The report described the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación as “one of the fastest growing cartels” and said the organization “smuggles illicit drugs into the United States by accessing various trafficking corridors in northern Mexico along the SWB including Tijuana, Juarez and Nuevo Laredo.”

“The cartels dominate the drug trade influencing the United States market, with most cartels having a poly drug market approach that allows for maximum flexibility and resiliency of their operations,” the report said.

An operative for Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación said the organization had a large group of members in Mexico who are “mostly on the armed side of the operations,” while most contacts in the US were clients.

“Most of what we can call members of the Jalisco organization are on the arms, like sicarios and some producers that are on a payroll. But everyone else is either a client we are selling to or an association to have access to certain route” for distribution in the US, he said.

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