One of the many images that went viral after news broke out that Javier Duarte had attempted to acquire a fake passport.

Mexico's fugitive governors, bounty hunters and social media

Alonso Cedeño
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Many on social media question and even ridicule the true intentions behind Mexico's Attorney General 15 million peso rewards for the capture of several fugitive governors.

On Friday, November 18, a man was arrested at the Tapachula, Chiapas airport, after being caught carrying two fake passports with the pictures ex-governor of Veracruz Javier Duarte and his wife Karime Macías, who've been on the run from authorities since October.

Federal Police officers at the airport quickly noticed that the man was visibly nervous. After a thorough inspection, the man confessed to having the passports and even said that he was on his way to personally deliver them to Duarte and his wife, but refused to reveal their whereabouts. The officers also discovered shortly thereafter that the man is Macías' cousin. However, the man was released within hours because, according to authorities, “falsifying documents isn't a serious crime.”

The news was widely shared on social media. Javier Duarte's name was mentioned 73,000 times over a short period of time, while Alex Huerta del Valle, the fake name that appeared on the passport with the ex-governor's mug shot, was mentioned 30,000 times over the same period of time.

In typical Mexican fashion, the story quickly became a national joke, with memes and animations popping up all over the internet that ridiculed the ex-governor's escape and the federal government's inaction.

According to reports, the onslaught of public ridicule and outrage has grown so much that it's led to several of Javier Duarte's family members to flee the State of Veracruz, citing “political and social harassment in Veracruz” as the reason for doing so.

The story of the fake passports is yet another reason for the widespread indignation among citizens of Veracruz, a state with escalating homicide rates, massive public debt, embezzlement at the hands of Javier Duarte and other top officials, and widespread reports of human rights violations against journalists and freedom of speech. Furthermore, Duarte's relationship with some of the most powerful figures in the country's federal government have caused citizen's online ridicule and outrage to also reach President Enrique Peña Nieto's, whose approval ratings have hit a new historic low.

On Tuesday, Mexico's Attorney General shared an image of yet another ex-governor who's on the run, Tomás de Jesús Yarrington Ruvalcaba, with the hasghtag #Recompensa (Reward), and an offer of 15 million pesos, around 720,000 dollars, for information leading to his arrest. Journalists from around the country quickly reported on the feasibility of offering rewards for fugitive governors, especially given Enrique Peña Nieto's close relationship with and public support of then governor Yarrington when accusations of corruption and embezzlement first broke out several years ago. The #Recompensas hashtag reached over six million users and had a potential reach of 21.8 million users.

The answer to whether using social media as a tool for finding fugitives governors is actually effective really depends on the government's true intention. Has the government turned to such tactics as a result of inadequate intelligence infrastructure or as a sort of campaign intended to make citizens feel that they're doing their job? Are they really interested in finding fugitive governors or do they simply want us to think that they're looking for them?

The online conversation is far from over. And it won't end when (or if) Javier Duarte is found, arrested and tried. The public outrage that's taken over the internet so far is just the tip of the iceberg, especially since several states in Mexico are holding gubernatorial elections next year and Mexico's presidential election campaigns are right around the corner. 

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