Mexico City (AP) — Jacobo grew up in Jalisco, western Mexico, home to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. Never comfortable at school, he had an abusive childhood: at some point his mother held her hand over an open fire after being told he had pushed his classmates. ..
Now 17, Jacobo claims he didn’t do it. By the age of 12, he was hired to carry out the first murder of the cartel. “They are out on the street looking for kids in need of money,” he recalls. “At the age of 12, I became a kind of hired murderer.”
Jacobo told Reinserta, a Mexican non-profit group that withheld the full name of the youth because they were all minors. It is currently being held at a facility for young criminals, most of whom are afraid of retaliation by gangsters.
“My neighbor asked me,’Do you want to make money?'” The answer was clear, as his family grew up in a family that rarely managed. “Of course. Who doesn’t want the money?” But the $ 1,500 he earned didn’t last long. He developed a stimulant habit to calm the psychological effects of what he was doing.
By mid-teens, he had tortured members of rival cartels for information, killed them, chopped their bodies, or dissolved them in acid.
It was his last job to do him. The cartel, along with many witnesses, ordered him to carry out the killings in public. The police came looking for him and he began to hide. The cartel contacted him and said he wanted to change his hiding place, “but it was a trap,” he recalls. Like many disposable teenage street-level drug dealers, watchmen, and hitmen, the no longer useful cartels wanted to get rid of him.
“They started shooting me when I appeared at the meeting place,” said Jacobo, whose surname was withheld because of his age. “I was shot in the head, back and abdomen.” He who was left behind for the dead somehow miraculously survived and is now sentenced to four years of youthful criminal charges for murder. doing.
Mexican law allows most young criminals to be sentenced to three to five years. In other words, almost everyone leaves the country before the age of 21.
Reinserta works to prevent young people from being adopted in drug cartels and find ways to rehabilitate them if they already have one.
It’s a difficult job in Mexico. He is alive, but Jacobo is still afraid. He knows it’s everywhere from his own work for cartels, and will never stop. “Now I’m just a goal to be eliminated, a minor stimulus to one of the most powerful cartels in the country.”
Marina Flores, a researcher at Reinserta, said the study suggests that some common myths about children in drug cartels are not true.
Children are most often engaged in substance use, leave school, or be expelled from school before attending a cartel, but membership in local street gangs no longer seems to play a major role. Mexican carstels are looking for children directly as soon as they graduate from school.
“Street gangs are not the first step in participating in organized crime,” Flores said. “We find that as soon as they graduate from school, they are involved in organized crime.”
According to the Mexican Children’s Rights Network, between 2000 and 2019, 21,000 young people under the age of 18 were killed in Mexico and 7,000 disappeared.
The group estimates that by 2019, approximately 30,000 young people have been hired by drug gangs.
According to Inserta, children are frequently adopted in cartels by other children of their age. The use of narcotics is one way to adopt them, but cartels also use religious beliefs and children’s sense of belonging is not gained elsewhere. A combination of poverty, abusive homes, unresponsive schools and social institutions plays a role.
In a report released Wednesday, Inserta interviewed 89 children at young criminal institutions in three states in northern Mexico, two states in central Mexico, and two states in the southeast. Sixty-seven of the 89 young people said they were actively involved in the cartel. The average age when they came into contact with the cartel was between 13 and 15. All of them dropped out of school and eventually all continued to use firearms.
Drug cartels are useful because children under the age of 18 are easily overlooked and cannot be billed as adults. Initially used as street-level drug dealers and guards, they are often quickly promoted to act as murderers.
In the northern border states, children are fascinated by a variety of drugs, receive more weapons and other training from cartels, engage in a wider range of criminal activity, and are faster and more violent than young people in the southern states. Accelerate to the role.
For example, Orlando grew up in the streets of a northern city like Ciudad Juárez after escaping from an orphanage. He estimates that between the ages of 10 and 16, he killed 19 people, primarily at the behest of the Sinaloa Cartel.
Now, at the age of 17, when he has been working for murder for four years, he says, “I don’t know how to live other than killing people.”
Like Orlando, Ivan grew up in a town on the northern border with his father who worked in a cartel.
But Ivan did not suffer from poverty or abuse. He made the conscious decision to join the same cartel where his father worked.
“I was very much influenced by Narco culture. I liked corrido, (television) series, guns and trucks,” he recalls.
By the age of 11, he worked as a cartel murderer, hacking or melting the bodies of victims. The sight of his first corpse scared him, but in a short time “I felt nothing, no fear, no regret, no guilt.” Ivan has also been sentenced to murder.
Inserta proposes possible solutions, including earlier attention to children, more recreational and learning opportunities, and interventions to prevent domestic violence. The group also proposes to create national enrollment of children recruited by cartels, psychological attention to them, and early and effective treatment of addiction.
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In Mexico, children up to 10 years old recruited by drug cartels | WGN Radio 720
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