Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Mexican drug cartels targeting and killing children

By Anne-Marie O'Connor and William Booth
Washington Post

On a sunny afternoon last week, when the streets of this mountain mining city were filled with schoolchildren and parents hurrying home from work, gunmen entered a tiny apartment and started firing methodically.

The assassins killed everyone: the family matriarch and her adult son; her daughter and son-in-law, and finally, her 22-month-old granddaughter.

The child was not killed by mistake. Preliminary forensics indicate that the gunmen, unchallenged, pointed a pistol at Scarlett Ramirez and fired.

In Mexico’s brutal drug war, children are increasingly victims, innocents caught in the crossfire, shot dead alongside their parents — and intentionally targeted.

According to U.S. and Mexican experts, competing criminal groups appear to be killing children to terrorize the population or prove to rivals that their savagery is boundless, as they fight over local drug markets and billion-dollar trafficking routes to voracious consumers in the United States.

“It worries us very much, this growth in the attacks on little children. They use them as a vehicle to send a message,” said Juan Martin Perez, director of the Child Rights Network in Mexico. “Decapitations and hanging bodies from bridges send a message. Killing children is an extension of this trend.”

The children’s rights group estimates that 994 people younger than 18 were killed in drug-related violence between late 2006 and late 2010, based on media accounts, which are incomplete because newspapers are often too intimidated to report drug-related crimes.

Few of the crimes are solved. “What worries us is the impunity in all of these cases,” Perez said. “If there is impunity, this use of children to send messages will grow.”

Government figures include all homicides of people younger than 17, capturing victims whose murders might not have been related to drugs or organized crime. In 2009, the last year for which there is data, 1,180 children were killed, half in shootings.

Recent, sensational killings of children — shot in a car seat, dumped in a field with a bullet in the head, killed as their grandmothers cradled them — have shocked Mexicans and shaken their faith that family is sacred, even to the criminal gangs.

“Before, they went after their enemy. Now, they go after every member of the family, indiscriminately,” said Martin Garcia Aviles, a federal congressman from the Party of the Democratic Revolution from the state of Michoacan.

A Chihuahua state police commander was attacked as she carried her 5-year-old daughter to school two weeks ago. Both died of multiple gunshot wounds.

In February, assassins went hunting for a Ciudad Juarez man, but the intended target wasn’t home, so they killed his three daughters instead, ages 12, 14 and 15.

In March, a young woman was bound and gagged, shot and left in a car in Acapulco. Her 4-year-old daughter lay slumped beside her, killed with a single bullet to her chest. She was the fifth child killed in drug violence in the resort city in one bloody week.

“They kill children on purpose,” said Marcela Turati, author of “Crossfire,” a new book on the killings of civilians in Mexico’s drug war. “In Juarez, they told a 7-year-old boy to run, and shot his father. Then they shot the little boy.”

Once off-limits

Historians of the Mexican drug trafficking culture say that until recently children were considered off-limits in the rough code honored by crime bosses, who once upon a time liked to portray themselves as Robin Hoods dealing dope to gringos and donating alms to the poor.

“The rules no longer apply — rather, there are no rules,” said Bruce Bagley, an expert in the drug trade at the University of Miami. When the monolithic Institutional Revolutionary Party ruled Mexico, until 2000, Bagley said excess violence was tamped down by the state, which controlled the drug bosses with selective coercion and complicity.

Now no such “pacts” exist, Bagley said.

U.S. and Mexican officials say the grotesque violence is a symptom the cartels have been wounded by police and soldiers. “It may seem contradictory, but the unfortunate level of violence is a sign of success in the fight against drugs,” said Michele Leonhart, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The cartels “are like caged animals, attacking one another,” she added.

Earlier this month, the award-winning poet and commentator Javier Sicilia rallied at the main plaza in Cuernavaca and appealed directly to the drug lords “to return to your codes, where civilians are not touched, where civilians are sacred, where children are sacred.”

Sicilia’s 24-year-old son was found dead in March. His body and four others were stuffed into a compact car, their faces, wrists and ankles wrapped in tape, victims of suffocation. Next to the corpses was a message that read: “This happened to you for making anonymous calls to the military” and was signed “the Gulf Cartel.”

Young recruits

Children as young as 10 have been employed by crime gangs to watch over street corners or sell drugs, and in some cases to kill. In December, Mexican authorities arrested a 14-year-old boy who allegedly confessed that he worked as an assassin for $250 a week.

Edgar Jimenez Lugo told reporters that a drug trafficking gang kidnapped him when he was 11. “I participated in four executions. I was drugged. They said they would kill me,” he said.

Here in San Luis Potosi, violence between the La Familia cartel and ruthless Zetas group has roiled the once-quiet streets. People familiar with the latest murder of a child said the killers came looking for a rival. They didn’t find him — but they found his family.

“What malice, to kill the little girl,” said a neighbor whose children had played with Scarlett. He shook his head. “It’s incredible.”

Neighbors said the family worked hard. The little girl’s grandmother took in laundry. Her parents flipped hamburgers nearby.

Experts worry about the public health consequences of such violence. Schoolchildren in Michoacan were asked to create art for a contest commemorating the Mexican bicentennial, depicting scenes from everyday life in “the Mexico I live in.”

In late March, educators published a book of children’s drawings, which included a drug tough throwing a grenade at a federal policeman and a man being shot in the stomach with an automatic weapon.


  1. La Raza is tainted. Time for a revolution to clease its disease.

  2. Childrens participation in crime is one thing killing children to punish or intimidate is another, but in any case, the DEATH penalty is a must. Where did Mexico of all places come up with this no death penalty stilted self riteous BS, Mexico, Lawless,corrupt,incompitent,run by the upper class at the expense of everybody else. One would think that at some point Mexico would get flat deadly serious about demanding some higher standard of conduct.

  3. with no death penalty the officials could be as corrupt as they want without fear of a death penalty.

  4. this is straight bullshit already, how the hell can this country let this happen to women and specifically children, children of all people are being used as examples to show off thier stupid and cowardly salvagry...all killers involved in these senseless killings will pay tremendously one day,there is a spiritual problem in mexico, all these killers are scared shitless without their fucking guns, thats straight bitch shit and definitley not gangsta at all, thats beyond cowardice and weak within heart and thier mind, God sees every harm they do to these innocent people, God's soldiers will get them and put them in there place all in due time, God bless the innocent citizens of all of mexico, keep praying and stay strong in faith....

  5. Those are bastards who deserve the very worst in hell for eternity. Piece of shit losers kill children. I wish I could grab one cut his balls off and stuff it in his mouth... I would stuff a sword into every child killers ass hole if i had the chance.....

  6. They just killed an 8 year old boy and his father...

  7. This just makes me even more disgusted! DEATH PENALTY!

  8. Every time there is legislation proposing the death penalty for kidnapings or other serious crimes, the girlie men and women of "Derechos Humanos" denounces the proposal as inhumane and barbaric. These fuking leftists don't care about innocent men, women or children, they want to protect criminals and try to promote" understanding". In the meantime, Mexico burns and nobody gives a fuk !

  9. To the liberals of this conversation,what is your proposal to deal with targeting of women and children,please share your thoughts.

  10. Public executions are effective,efficient,practical,inexpensive and send a loud message,ASK THE LEAN MEAN MACHINE CHINA.

  11. The issue with the death penalty in Mexico is that there is no justice and there hasn't been for a long time. All levels of law enforcement, government and judicial branches are corrupt. This could play into the hands of the cartels.

    If those who admit to mass murder are often released, what chance does an innocent who is falsely accused stand? The law will selectively decide who to execute and who to release based on their own agendas.

  12. I wonder why for example, Dutch drugs dealers never pull off insane bloodbaths like this... Maybe, because the War on Drugs only leads to more drugs profits, more drugs money and heavier and bloodier fighting?

    The American government should seriously look for alternative ways how to deal with drugs problems. You see, the War on Drugs only gives criminals more power.

  13. if this happened in America they would be fucking know why, because we have the means to stop it.

  14. They are a bunch of low-life, ruthless cutthroats that should be rounded up and put to death ! I feel sorry for the poor people there that are trying just to survive in that murderous bunch of idiots. OBama knows what's going on, his family is rich from the gun business. It is a matter of time before they take over the border of Texas,and infiltrate our country. I think that dumbass Janet should ride along the Mexican border in a convertible with the top down on the Mexican side, all by herself , since she thinks it is so damn safe. Perhaps, she might have a change of mind ? The Zeta's do human trafficking maybe, they could use her as a donkey to ride ? America needs to wake up, to what is happening, before it's too late . WTF people ?


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