Courtesy: Morelos State General Attorney’s Office; eelbaron_news/Twitter

Last Monday, the Morelos government offered $25,000 USD for the capture of Francisco Javier Rodríguez Hernández, aka “El Señorón”. Rodríguez Hernández is a prominent cartel leader in the region of Morelos. The government wants him for both homicide and organized crime. The government even erected a billboard advertising the bounty for Rodríguez Hernández.

In response, Rodríguez Hernández gifted local impoverished townspeople with food staples, school supplies, and toys in an attempt to curry favor with them.

Masked, armed henchmen arrived in two villages in southern Morelos on Wednesday and handed out bags of goods. The bags were emblazoned with El Señorón’s face and logo. According to Aristegui Noticias, the bags also contained a statement from Rodríguez Hernández himself. It read: “Although the state government has sent official letters and statements that the criminal leader would respond in a violent way, El Señoron responds today by supporting the people and their needs.”

Soon, people began to circulate photos of the “gifts” on social media. Savvy social media users pegged the “kind act” as something much more sinister: a PR stunt. After all, this isn’t the first time that cartel members have tried to manipulate the public to be on “their side.” As one Twitter user put it: “As if criminals were interested in children’s education.” Regardless, the poor locals seemed more than happy to take the free supplies.

On Monday, the current Governor of Morelos, Cuauhtémoc Blanco announced a new initiative that would publicly target cartel leaders.

Authorities consider Rodríguez Hernández “one of the biggest generators of violence in the state.”

“I celebrate the launch of these unprecedented investigation events in the state that strengthen our security strategy,” said Blanco. “Never before has the authority dared to expose the alleged generators of violence with their first and last names.” The government then erected a “Wanted” billboard for El Señorón. Just a day later, the billboard was set on fire by unknown assailants.

The government of Morelos seems to be nonplussed by El Señorón’s response to their show of authority. “We repeat: we do not negotiate with criminals in Morelos,” the government said in a statement about his school supply PR stunt. “Therefore, it is still our top priority to capture the prominent cartel members who damage the security and peace of the Morelos people.”