|Members of the South Pacific Cartel, most of who are aged 12 to 23|
By: Hugo Guzmán Rambaldi
Between 2012 and 2013, only the Mexican Army detained 473 minors, 61 of them girls, for being part of drug gangs and organized crime. These are the “niño sicarios”, who are capable of killing with a firearm or by cutting them, beheading, transferring drugs and drug money, consuming drugs, and making many women and teens become sex slaves.
According to information from the Network for the Rights of Children in Mexico (Red por los Derechos de la Infancia de Mexico), the average age of the “niños sicarios” is 13 years and the Public Safety Committee of the Chamber of Deputies of the country revealed that there are 30,000 underage children who are engaged in drug trafficking, kidnapping, extortion, smuggling, piracy, and murder. The kids, according to reports from public and private agencies, can earn between $1-3,000 a month, although some even receive this amount by committing one or more crimes. There are reports that they can be paid between $150 and $200 a week just by collecting information on the movement of the police and the army, and also by delivering data on gangs or rival groups.
It is one of the realities imposed by the expansion of the drug cartels, organized crime gangs (Which among other activities they practice kidnappings), and groups of smugglers (In Mexico there is a widespread smuggling network of stolen cars, for example).
The thousands of children involved in these criminal networks are from poor provinces (states) of Mexico, from rural areas, they belong to families that make up more than 80% of the poor in this nation of around 110 million inhabitants and many live through the domestic violence occurring, the abandonment, and even becoming orphans.
The drug dealers and gang leaders offer them money that allows minors to help their families out or simply run away from home and start a new life. A factor that influences this decision is that under Mexican law, a minor cannot be sentenced to jail for more than three years.
A report from Infancia en Movimiento (Children in Motion) indicates that in recent years the arrest of minors for serious crimes increased by 34% and that 70% of arrests were related to killings, abductions, torture, drug trafficking, theft, and severe injury.
It comes to a point where at national and international levels they are already famous, El Ponchis, Gloria, Erick, El Cris, Las Chavelas, for their criminal actions such as beheading, their leadership among boys captured by the narcos and their recruitment capabilities.
On this last week of November 2013, one of the most dramatic cases of the “niños sicarios” rose in the media. El Ponchis was liberated. He was arrested in December 2010 when he was 14, accused of beheading and hanging four men, convicted of murder, ties to organized crime and possession of drugs. On top of that, he is also accused of causing serious injury to people who he attacked with firearms and by cutting them. A criminal record of this extent would be reserved for an adult man with experience in executing crimes, but El Ponchis was only 14 years old.
According to Mexican law, the boy, Edgar, could only be sentenced to three years in prison. He has now been released from prison after having fulfilled his time. A unique part of this tragedy is that El Ponchis was sent to the United States because he was born there and his closest relatives live there. At this point, this youth should be in the hands of specialized staff of Outcry in the Barrio, an organization that serves children who are in the same situations such as El Ponchis.
|Siblings: Elizabeth (L) and Oliva Jimenez Lugo (R), aka 'Las Chavelas', sisters of Edgar Jimenez Lugo|
His sisters, incidentally, followed the same path because in the times that El Ponchis committed crimes, he had strong ties with leaders and lieutenants of drug traffickers and organized crime groups. They had been “sex servants” for criminals and they also performed other criminal activities. Press reports tell that Isabel, one of the sisters, was the girlfriend of Jesus Radilla “El Negro”, leader of the sicarios of the South Pacific Cartel.
The future of El Ponchis is unpredictable in the United States, even more the future of the thousands of children and teenagers who are still part of cartels and organized crime carrying out cruel criminal activities.