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

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Slain kids cast larger shadow on Mexican drug war

Miguel Angel Gutierrez

Once largely spectators to the deaths of hitmen, police and innocent bystanders, children are increasingly in the firing line of Mexico's drug war.

Minors initially made up a small proportion of the casualties in the conflict that has claimed 40,000 lives in 4 1/2 years, but the child death toll has risen sharply in recent months, as killing became more indiscriminate.

Well over a quarter of Mexico's 112 million population is under 18, and economists say the country risks squandering its future if President Felipe Calderon's government is unable to arrest the creeping slide of young people into the violence.

"This life is a disaster," said Agustina Carrillo, whose 17-year-old son was shot dead by a young drug dealer in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez, epicenter of the drug violence and a key smuggling point for drugs into the United States.

Little official data is available on child killings, though government figures showed the number of murders of 16-20 year-olds in Chihuahua state -- home to Ciudad Juarez -- more than doubled to 386 in 2010 from 136 in 2008.

Grieving parents have used the media to pillory Calderon and his conservative National Action Party (PAN), which was hammered in a key state election this month.

Many joined a peace march that crossed much of the nation in June, urging the president to end the army-led conflict he launched soon after taking office in December 2006.

The United Nations this year urged Mexico's government to do more to investigate crimes against minors and improve scope for prosecution, notably against the army, which has also been blamed for killings.

Though he remains more popular than his party, Calderon's approval ratings have hit record lows, and last month he met victims of the drug war to apologize, only to be berated live on television by distraught mothers.

Most victims are between 18 and 35, though the lobby group Network for the Rights of Childhood in Mexico (REDIM) says some 1,300 minors have also been killed since Calderon's war began.

A REDIM report at the start of 2011 showed the violence killed 994 children until last November, or around 21 every month. In the eight months since, REDIM calculated about 300 more have died -- at an average of nearly 38 per month.


What particularly alarms analysts is that while many killings were once accidental, atrocities like dismemberment are now deliberately being carried out against children.

"A distinct trend is observable: at the start of 2010 many deaths were due to crossfire," said REDIM director Martin Perez. "Since then we can see organized crime has started to kill boys and girls to send messages to other cartels."

Many children fall victim to violence due to ties to family members mixed up in the narcotics trade, which is estimated to generate around $40 billion in revenues every year.

The chaos has left thousands of orphans struggling to survive across Mexico.

It has also drawn more and more minors into the killing, with girls as young as 16 now being trained as assassins by gangs.

According to REDIM, roughly 30,000 minors have been recruited by drug gangs, whose promise of easy cash has helped fill a gap in the job market for young people, rising numbers of whom lack proper schooling or regular work.

Javier Oliva, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), said the increasing exposure of children to drug dealing and violence showed cartels were becoming more brazen and corrupt in their pursuit of profit.

"This is the level of violence you get for control of the drug market," Oliva said. "What I see here is a clear demonstration of impunity. They can do these things because there is no punishment," he added.

The government has pledged to improve Mexico's failing justice system, and the Supreme Court last week ruled soldiers accused of abuses could face trials in civil courts instead of closed-door military tribunals.

The changes came too late for Cinthia Salazar, who accuses the army of shooting dead her two sons Bryan, 5, and Martin, 9, at a checkpoint in northeastern Mexico last year.

"They took two of my children," she said. "Who's going to give them back to me? Nobody. I told them (the soldiers) not to shoot us because there were kids, but they ignored me."


  1. Fucked uup!!!damn these cartels have the army all paranoid to be shooting at little kids or maybe they weren't paranoid and they did it on purpose anyone that kills is not the same as before they hadn't killed,that goes for everyone army of all the countries, cartel sicarios everyone.

  2. Well besides the fact that narco lifestyle is romanced by money and the trill of drug running, I'm sure the ones that are dying are involed in some way, believing they can get out before it's to late and this isn't the reality of of it, any parent that knows what's going on won't let thier kids out of site, or at least give them some life skills like the path of honest living.

  3. Just wonder how many more months people will be saying 40,000 have been killed in this "Drug War" ? I can remember 6 months ago many quoted 40,000-45,000, I guess no one has been killed in these last 6 months? Are those in the know afraid to tell us the real numbers, or do they continue to use the excuse that they are not sure? Can anyone put a "realistic" number on this? Are those of you that write these articles afraid to take a stabe at it? Maybe it would hurt the "mexican" immage.

  4. 16-20 year olds are NOT kids Borderland Beat and like the poster above me said, those "kids" are most probably recruited as "halcones". Hell it happens in the U.S all the time with the Crips, Bloods, or any street gang killing each other and guess what most of the "victims" are 16-20 year old "kids".

  5. This is nothing but media propaganda. In my opinion, they should only be labeled as "children" if they are 12 and under. A great majority of these youth getting killed are of high school age who should have thought twice before picking up that AK-47.

  6. Anoymous 3:55, there is no 'high school' in Mexico. After junior high, which is known as secundaria, some better off kids then move onto a 3 year preparatoria program to go on to college later perhaps, or they might also go into a trade skill program of some kind or other. Just thought you would like to know... The whole world is NOT a duplicate of the US.

  7. I say a more realistic number would be about 90,000 dead because of the war on drugs.

  8. Criminals will use anybody anything Young people and low class idiots are numerous available and willing,SO WHAT same around the 3rd world circuit, in a hundred years or so these countrys MAY evolve into CIVALIZED responsible political systems, MABY!!

  9. So all these statistics are just great. Guns, drugs, murders. I've never once seen on here how US aid would be better served by forcing the resource rich Mexican Goverment to give the people of Mexico legitimate work. If the US would focus on the root of the problem (the goverment of Mexico) and not the illicit activities their people can either get involved in or starve to death if they choose not to...the war on drugs might have a chance.


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