Social media has proven to be a minefield for companies and many notable public figures. Now a notorious Mexican cartel is becoming well acquainted with the risks built into the use of the medium following the recent furor around social media postings by children of Knights Templar boss Enrique Plancarte.
Siblings Melissa and Kike Plancarte, who are both aspiring pop stars, have provoked outrage after posting photos of themselves wearing symbols associated with the notorious criminal organization on Instagram and Facebook. The controversy boiled over after it was discovered that the siblings were hired by the state government of Michoacán, the embattled center of Knights Templar power, to perform at a public fair in 2012. The revelation that state authorities had given Melissa Plancarte, who goes by the stage name “The Princess of Banda,” permission to film a music video in a historic government building has only added to the uproar.
The outrage comes at a good time for anti-cartel vigilante groups which have been waging a fierce battle against crime syndicates– and the Knights Templar in particular– using, among other weapons, social media. Though it’s clear that a certain cultural glamorization has existed around cartels in Mexico, the nature and force of the backlash against the Plancarte siblings suggests that the vigilante groups have quite a bit going in their favor as they attempt to turn the tide against the cartels in their PR battle.
And following the quasi-legalization of vigilante militias by Mexico’s national government earlier this week, it appears that these groups have some political momentum behind them as well. The agreement to allow vigilante leaders to incorporate their groups into governmental military units also came on the same day that another Knights Templar boss was captured by Mexican security forces. Both developments were rare bright spots in the otherwise daunting cartel quandary for the Mexican government. But, with the Plancarte controversy offering a potent reminder of the links that exist between government and the powerful crime groups, the hope that more substantive anti-cartel efforts are on the way may be overly optimistic.