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

Monday, April 12, 2021

Children in Guerrero Arm Themselves Against Cartels

"MX" for Borderland Beat; TY to "NealinCaborca"

This Saturday, April 10, minors between the ages of six and fifteen led a column of armed self-defense groups in the mountainous region of the state of Guerrero. They are defending themselves from the criminal group Los Ardillos.

Under a zenith sun, armed children parade one after another throwing cheers at orphans, widows, indigenous peoples, and General Zapata. “Live! live! live!”. For the third consecutive year, the infants have joined the adults of the community police in a kind of military parade that is a call for help to the Government of Mexico and also a show of force before the organized crime groups that besiege them in the Low Mountain of the State of Guerrero. They are now just an irreducible village of 600 inhabitants in an area where poppy cultivation has been gaining ground by gunfire. Los Ardillos want the land and semi-slave labor for the opium gum. Whoever does not fold pays it dearly. And in the municipality of José Joaquín de Herrera they do not want to fold.

Last year, the strategy of arming children, even with toy shotguns for the seven to 12-year-olds, paid off. The government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador was forced to react to the international outrage. Armed children in Mexico. This year, the community police have forced the pulse a little more: the kids have fired into the air in an open field after launching slogans and demanding that the Government “support the widows, orphans and displaced people. Enough of crime and discrimination against the indigenous peoples of Mexico”. The shots also looked like toys, but they weren’t.

The so-called self-defense groups have a long tradition in Guerrero and have spread throughout the country. Ordinary people arm themselves to protect themselves from the dangers that threaten them. After all, the Constitution establishes autonomy for indigenous peoples in matters of justice and police, among others. And they exercise it, not always very wisely. The siege of organized crime has turned these local patrols into defense forces that every year lose lives in their shootings with drug cartels. On both sides, people lose lives. In 2020 there were six attacks, according to the accounts of Bernardino Sánchez Luna, 48, a veteran guerrilla member who organizes these militias in the area.

It is not the first time that the community guards have armed and paraded the children of the community, but this protest has been the largest so far.

The armed defense of these communities was born with a community security objective, but, at the same time, it became a quasi-military group to which they now add children to train them. Why involve children? Why raise them with a shotgun in their hands? “The Government has not complied with us. We asked him for help against the groups and he has not given it. We ask him for secondary school teachers, because we cannot leave the town, and they have not arrived. Our task is to cultivate the fields, if he does not want us to arm ourselves, then he must give us security”, says Bernardino, as they all call him. “The Government has not complied with us.” There is the pulse. The rest is bravado so Los Ardillos know who they are playing it with.

The line of black-haired and dark-skinned soldiers parade through town. They wear a peaked cap and stiff leather huaraches. With a bandana tied to the neck they cover their nose and mouth, as if they were guerrillas. Little flesh and blood figures who smile with all their teeth at the package of cookies. The dust of the dirt streets covers everything and the sun does not give its arm to twist. They carry wooden weapons, toy guns; the smallest holds sticks. And they throw cheers with a megaphone while on the truck of a vehicle. It almost seems like a holiday. The procession has been led by women, who have little voice in these towns. Then come the kids, then the adults. Their shotguns also reveal years of struggle: the worn handles, the dull barrel, homemade straps. More than a show of force, it looks like an army returning home after years of battle. Defeated.

The journalists have arrived in a car caravan. By driving together they protect themselves from dangerous roads with checkpoints of all kinds of uniformed men. They are welcomed to a place where nobody enters, because the hosts want to send a message “to the world”. “We are not criminals,” the children tell the Government at the microphone in a sports hall. In many parts of the Mexico, citizens now wear self-defense shirts without it being fully known who they are or what they stand for. In this municipality there is only one certainty: they are poor and they don’t want violence, but generation after generation they go through arms. Sitting at the edge of the court, three women seem oblivious to the matter. The oldest speaks Nahuatl, like everyone else, and pretends not to understand. The youngest, 27, does not want her children to carry rifles. “It will be what God wants. I would not like my children … but if the people chose that way, then no way”. Her name is Claudia Bolaños and she has a 5-year-old boy and a baby who sleeps in her arms.

Some children fire rounds into the air after leaving their wooden rifles.

Men choose. Among them they vote for the Communal Council that governs in assembly. They will decide whether set up the polls on June 6, when Mexico will vote for 20,000 public offices and 15 governorships, among them that of Guerrero. Half the country has raised its hands to its head because the candidate to govern this land by the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party, the same as President López Obrador, is accused of rape and his candidacy has been annulled due to fiscal inconsistencies. What do they know on the mountain of Félix Salgado Macedonio? Bernardino says little or nothing. There is no television here. Nothing to add about a case that has been on national headlines for weeks. No candidate, also according to the guerrilla, has appeared in this community yet. The assembly will vote if they consent to a vote on the 6th.

The absence of the State in this area is obvious. Are they in abandonment? “One could say, Yes. Faced with a simplified discourse that attributes everything to drug trafficking, the authorities end up looking the other way, there is nothing to do, they seem to say,” said Franco-Argentine anthropologist Romain Le Cour. She has been in Mexico for 12 years and works for the international NGO Noria, specialized in violence around the world. Le Cour knows a lot about the Mexican people. “What happens here is much more complex. It is a social problem, of poverty and neglect. It is not enough to blame the violence on the drug traffickers and let the indigenous communities govern themselves without help,” she explains. Simple messages end in simple solutions. And the lack of peace that exists in this mountain requires something more. There is a blurry relationship between local leaders (caciques), narcos, and politicians in this area. Interests more crossed than the bullets themselves.

In the town's main square of the community of Ayahualtempa, members of the community police ask the federal government to help them against drug traffickers.

In José Joaquín de Herrera Municipality there are nine widows, 14 orphans and 34 displaced people from nearby besieged communities. And they are isolated. The doctor approaches when there is an emergency. Nobody stops him on the road, because he also heals the afflicted in other towns. Some merchants arrive to supply the basics, after paying the one who charges. And, of course, the Cola-Cola truck. “And the one with the Pepsi,” laughs Bernardino. When they finish primary school, the students do not continue studying because they would have to travel a few kilometers further, where the danger lies: bullets or kidnappings, they say. Nor do they come to see the relatives who live in the entrance of the region. In this town, when they point to the mountain, they see shotgun barrels instead of thinking of corn, beans, or squash.

On one side some goats browse, two black-and-white pigs are tied by a rope, a donkey brays beyond. The sweaty troops enter the field. “Community children, firm now! Embracing weapons, now! If there is no one to defend us, then we are going to respond with fire to the hit men, sons of the bitch!”. A dozen shots leave puffs of smoke in the air. And the mountain echoes them.

Video roughly translated to:

Firm now! Embrace weapons, now! If there is no law defending orphaned children in Mexico, nor government that protects us, then we are going to respond with fire to all sicarios, sons of the bitch!

Bernando Sanchez - Founder of the Community Police: We have 30 comrades who have died against cartels. Every time one dies or is kidnapped, we go to the military to ask for help. But they tell us they do not have orders to leave their barracks. We were forced to bring kids into our ranks. Since kids go out on patrols, we want them to be armed to be able to defend themselves.

Like we like to say around here: 'It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.'

We have 14 orphans. Right now we have no support from the government.

Los Ardillos criminal group is trying to dominate our communities and live us in misery by taking our natural resources.

I ask the government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who says he sides with the people, who says he will help the indigenous people. I tell him that here we are and have not received help from the federal government.

We have widows, orphans, and displaced, and not even this makes the government want to help us. I ask him to not only make promises.

Political campaigns are underway and this will be the time where people will be tricked with fake promises. Lots of promises will be made but nothing will be done.

Source: El Pais; PT; Animal Politico


  1. Bunch of propoganda in Mexico their are no autodefensas their never were it was just a strategy by a political party, criminal organization. The Autodefensas in Michocan were started by CJNG, El PRI. The people who participated in them were old enemies of the Templarios. Later on part of the Templarios flipped on them and joined the Autodefensas people like the Tuta and his organization, Kike Plancartes organization and even parts of Nazario Morenos Organization mainly those based in Urupan, Ario de Rosales.

    1. So it’s true herd tuta flipped on Nazario. Idk how people still say templarios when they are all
      Gone the top loyal ones with money all
      Got backstabbed and killed

    2. WTF are you talking about ?...there are autodefencas in plenty of towns,the history lesson of autodefensas isnt relevant !

  2. Literally the wild west.

    1. Actually is has been, you can shoot anyone, anytime, anywhere, you can rape, extort, Rob trains, but you give some bribe money to the government, to continue playing so they look the other way.

  3. 006 probably amongst them, animo mocosos

  4. Mexico,its like some kind of feudal society of robber barons(like rennaissance Italy)clinging on to and pillaging the countries resources,the barons being the governors running their particular states without interference,in which they can do almost anything.The people?They couldnt care less about the people

    1. Such a shame & incompetence of government that children have taken arms to fight criminals.
      Still in disbelief.


  5. Propaganda by Mexicans looking for sympathy whe it’s a Naco-state, and Políticos manipulate the poor in games like the fake “Autodefensa” movement

  6. When we start seeing children and mothers with golden weapons we will know that we have reached peak madness.

  7. Reminiscent of the Zapatistas in Chiapas back in '94. Carried fake wooden rifles and sticks. Then I believe the GAFES arrived and slaughtered them wholesale. Poor peasants just wanted human rights.

  8. So what comes next? Little kids forming their own cartel then start posting torture videos to intimidate their enemies? Won't somebody please make it stop?!

  9. Smfh, it’s sad to see kids arming themselves because the Mexican authorities can’t do their jobs correctly.

    1. Yet it continues to thrive, the inequality & corruption.

  10. FFS, no wonder I can't get a gun in the US. They're all in Mexico.


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