Tragically, Mexican drug cartels often recruit 10-year-old children

A Mexican boy, Jacobo grew up in the western Mexican state of Jalisco. The city is the base for the Jalisco New Generation drug cartel. Jacobo never felt comfortable at school and had a violent childhood experience. Her mother once held her hand over a blazing fire because she allegedly pushed a classmate.

Now 17 years old, Jacobo claims he didn’t do what he was accused of. But at the age of 12, he was recruited to carry out his first murder for the benefit of a drug cartel. “They went around looking for children who were on the streets and needed money,” he recalls. “At the age of 12, I became sort of a hitman.”

Jacobo told his story to Reinserta, a Mexican non-profit group that keeps the full names of the youths secret because all of them are minors. They are currently being held in a facility for unlawful youths and are mostly haunted by fear of reprisals by drug gangs.

Boys being treated for drug abuse and addiction stand at the fence of a rehabilitation center for alcoholics and drug addicts in Tijuana May 13, 2010. (Photo: REUTERS/Jorge Duenes)

Boys being treated for drug abuse and addiction stand at the fence of a rehabilitation center for alcoholics and drug addicts in Tijuana May 13, 2010. (Photo: REUTERS/Jorge Duenes)

“A neighbor asked me, ‘Do you want to earn money?’”. Growing up in a household where his family was rarely able to provide for Jacobo’s needs, the answer was clear. “I said yes. Who doesn’t want money?”

However, the $1,500 Jacobo earned did not last long because he regularly consumed methamphetamine, which he reasoned to do to relieve the psychological effects of his work as a hitman.

Associated Press reports that in his mid-teens, Jacobo tortured members of a rival cartel for information. He kills them and dismembers their bodies or dissolves them in acid, on the outskirts of Mexico City.

Packages containing illegal drugs are seen inside a sports vehicle near Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.  (Photo: AP)

Packages containing illegal drugs are seen inside a sports vehicle near Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. (Photo: AP)

This heinous event was his last job that put Jacobo in prison. The cartel ordered him to carry out the murder in public, seen by many eyewitnesses. The police came looking for him, and he went into hiding. The cartel contacted him wanting to move his hideout, “but it was a trap,” he recalls. The cartel wanted to get rid of Jacobo because he was deemed useless, as is often the case with many street-level drug dealers, scouts, and single-use assassins.

“When I came to the meeting place, they started shooting at me,” said Jacobo, whose last name is withheld due to his age. “I was shot in the head, in the back, in the stomach.” He was left to die. But somehow, Jacobo miraculously survived. He is now serving a four-year sentence for the murder.

Mexican law allows sentences of between three and five years for most young offenders, meaning almost all leave before they turn 21.

Reinserta works to prevent young people from being recruited by drug cartels, and finds ways to rehabilitate them if they have already fallen into this black valley.

It’s a tough job in Mexico. Although still alive, Jacobo is still haunted by fear. He knew that the cartel was everywhere, and would not stop for any reason. “Now I’m just a target to be eliminated, a minor annoyance to one of the most powerful cartels in the country.”

Marina Flores, a researcher for Reinserta, said the study showed some common myths about children in drug cartels were not true.

A boy undergoing drug abuse treatment sits on the terrace of a rehabilitation center in Tijuana May 13, 2010. (Photo: Reuters)

A boy undergoing drug abuse treatment sits on the terrace of a rehabilitation center in Tijuana May 13, 2010. (Photo: Reuters)

According to him, many children almost always engage in drug use and leave or are expelled from school before joining a cartel. Membership in local street gangs no longer seems to play much of a role. Cartels in Mexico directly recruit children as soon as they leave school.

“Street gangs are not the first step for them to join organized crime,” Flores said. “We found that once they were expelled from school, they immediately committed organized crime.”

The Network for the Rights of the Child in Mexico says that between 2000 and 2019 in Mexico, 21,000 youths under 18 were murdered in Mexico, and 7,000 disappeared.

The group estimates that around 30,000 youths have been recruited by drug gangs in 2019.

Suspected Mexican drug cartel member "Arellano Felix" in Tijuana February 10, 2010. (Photo: Reuters)

Suspected member of the Mexican drug cartel “Arellano Felix” in Tijuana February 10, 2010. (Photo: Reuters)

Reinserta said children were often recruited into cartels by other children their age. Drug use is one way to recruit them, but the cartels also use religious beliefs and a sense of belonging that children can’t get anywhere else. The combination of poverty, violent homes and unresponsive schools and social institutions contributes to this phenomenon.

In the report released Wednesday (13/10), Reinserta interviewed 89 minors detained in three northern border states, two states in central Mexico and two southeastern states. Of the 89 people, as many as 67 youth claimed to be actively involved in the cartel. The median age at which they came into contact with the cartel was between 13 and 15 years. All of them dropped out of school and ended up using firearms.

Drug cartels find children under 18 useful, as they are more easily overlooked and cannot be prosecuted as adults. They were initially used for street-level drug sales and as scouts, but were often quickly promoted to act as assassins. [ah/rs]

Check Also

China’s Military Power Is Expected To Overtake The US And Russia In The Near Future

A US military general warned that it was only a matter of time before China’s …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.