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Mexico detains man over tweet alluding to fatal helicopter crash

November 14, 2011 |  3:01 pm

A memorial service for Mexico's Interior Minister Francisco Blake in in Tijuana on Sunday

REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- A Mexican Twitter user was detained and questioned by federal investigators about a message on the social media site that seemed to allude to the helicopter crash that killed Mexico's interior minister, Francisco Blake Mora.

The tweet by @mareoflores appeared Thursday, a day before the suspected accident that killed Blake and seven others, and referred to the 2008 Learjet crash that killed a previous interior minister, Juan Camilo Mouriño.

That accident also occurred in early November and its anniversary was a source of buzz among Mexican social media users in the days before Friday's crash.

"I haven't left work so early since the fall of Mouriño's plane," the tweet said. "Be careful, flying officials."

The federal attorney general's office said it detained the Twitter user Sunday under its duty to "exhaust all lines of investigation" in the Blake crash (link in Spanish). A spokeswoman said Monday that the user was found by the agency's cyber-police unit.

Identified as a 26-year-old publicist named Mario Flores, the latest tuitero to enter the news in Mexico said in interviews Monday that agents dressed in civilian clothing approached him in his Mexico City driveway, tackled him and pushed him into a civilian vehicle. He said he was taken to meet investigators and was in custody for eight hours.

After his release Sunday night, Flores was greeted with news cameras and cheers outside an attorney general's office building in the capital (link in Spanish). Flores said he told authorities that the tweet was a coincidence and that it was rooted in his experience living through the 2008 Mouriño crash, which occurred just a few blocks from his place of work.

"It's in the collective consciousness," Flores said in a radio interview with journalist Carmen Aristegui (link and audio in Spanish). "It's the same way that Americans still talk about 9/11."

Flores joins a growing list of social media users in Mexico who have been targeted by criminals or government authorities for messages posted on Twitter.

In the border city of Nuevo Laredo, a string of grisly unsolved killings is spreading fear among Twitter users who keep one another informed on criminal activity. This year, two social media users in Veracruz became a political flash point after they were jailed over tweets that state authorities said spread rumor and panic.

And in the hours after the Friday helicopter crash, the Twitter user @morf0 became a brief media sensation when a message of his seemed to predict the Blake crash, saying: "Tomorrow on 11/11, a secretary will fall out of the sky."

For his part, Flores said Monday that Twitter users should be protected, not targeted, by authorities.

"I am a user, I am Mexican, I just want peace for me, my family and more than anything for my country," he told Aristegui. "I don't want ministers to fall from the sky and I don't want tuiteros to be taken from their homes for saying something." 

ALSO:

In Mexico, harsh charges over Twitter

Mexican official's last tweet recalls previous fatal crash

Veracruz panic started before 'terrorist tweets,' reports say

-- Daniel Hernandez

Photo: A memorial service for Interior Minister Francisco Blake in Tijuana on Sunday. Credit: Reuters

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