Here is an excerpt from Tracy Wilkinson's article in the Los Angeles Times:
"The small houses of the Independencia neighborhood climb a hill that rises from the bone-dry Santa Catarina riverbed. Gang graffiti proliferate the higher you go, until they completely cover the cinder-block walls with slogans, threats and declarations...It is here that Mexico's biggest drug traffickers find an easy following of collaborators and pliable disciples. This is the traffickers' so-called social base: people loyal out of economics more than anything else, people who peddle the drugs and eagerly turn out when the traffickers want to mount street demonstrations against the government and the army. Independencia is distinctive among Monterrey's marginal neighborhoods, community activists say, because it is home to generations of small-time drug dealers, and because it has been penetrated in the last two years by agents of the Gulf cartel, one of Mexico's most notorious and violent trafficking organizations. Those traffickers demonstrated their pull in this neighborhood last month when they paid residents to block Monterrey's major thoroughfares with hours-long demonstrations, day after day for two weeks." Link to Full Article
The reason this behavior by the DTOs is so disturbing is because it is so reminiscent of guerrilla (a.k.a. terrorist) groups operating elsewhere in Latin America - in some cases, as far back as the 1920s. One of the fundamental tenets of guerrilla warfare is to obtain the support of the people. Historically in Latin America (e.g. Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua), this support has come from peasants living in rural areas, and without it, many revolutions might have failed. In Nicaragua in the 1920s and 1930s, Augusto Sandino gained support from the rural populace, and it allowed him to wage an almost-successful campaign against the US Marine Corp. He had villages from which to recruit guerrilla fighters, use for logistical support, and use for a place to rest and regroup. In Colombia, the FARC and ELN have relied on similar support from like-minded peasants, although that support is diminshing. Often, popular support is gained through a combination of general discontent with the government by the populace and propaganda efforts by the guerrillas. This combination has led to bloody revolutions and drawn-out insurgencies in many Latin American countries in the last few decades.
The use of propaganda by Mexican DTOs - specifically banners that tell the Mexican people their government can't protect them - and bribes to obtain public support is not a good sign of things to come. However, the situation is a little different in Mexico than the examples I listed above. There are portions of the populace that are unhappy with the Mexican army and with the Calderon administration This does not automatically mean these people automatically back the DTOs; they usually despise the DTOs even more. The concern is the young people Wilkinson mentions in her article who are poor with no prospects, and are willing to accept small bribes or small drug dealing jobs in exchange for showing up at a demonstration. The effect of such mass protest is often the same, regardless of how or why the protesters got there. Similar to guerrilla groups, these adolescents provide ripe recruiting grounds for the DTOs to hire thugs, and towns like Independencia provide safe haven for DTOs to conduct criminal activity, rest, and regroup. This is just another example of why putting Mexican DTOs in the simple category of "organized crime" is outdated and wholly inappropriate.