As Many as 50,000 Children in Mexico Are Involved in Organized Crime
By Eng. Raul Ponce de Leon
In Mexico, 30 to 50 thousand children are involved with organized crime, according to organizations that protect children.
The creation of a justice system for adolescents is paralyzed, it operates at federal level until 2014 and progress in this matter is inexistent in the states of Mexico.
Roberto Salgado Garcia, a professor at National School of Social Work at the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), presented a document on Children and Armed Conflict in Mexico, according to it, 10,000 children were orphaned as a result of the violence experienced in the country, the UN Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) has estimated 23,000 youth have been recruited by organized crime. The report conducted in 2010 entitled “Alternative Report on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and their Involvement in Armed Conflict”, stated that about 30 thousand children of both genders, between ages 9 and 17, are exploited by criminal groups in various ways, ranging from drug trafficking to kidnapping and human trafficking, extortion, smuggling and piracy, as well as 22 different types of crime.
“For 9 to 17 year old, boys and girls who are involved in crime, are mainly involved in human trafficking, while the younger ones are used to monitor or act as informants. They are also used to board the trains and monitor the amount of migrants arriving every day from South America,” explains the report.
Moreover, according to documents filed to the Committee on the Children Rights of the UN, youth starting from the age of 12 years are used as watchman for small houses where kidnapped victims are kept, so they cannot escape, the older ones, age 16, work in violent exercises, such as kidnappings, murders, and all of them carry guns.
The figures are alarming; about 24,000 children are incorporated in the Sinaloa cartel, over 17,000 with Los Zetas and about 7,500 with “La Familia Michoacana”, for a total of nearly 50,000 children and adolescents.
Although many people do not want to see that organized crime is having a cultural impact on children, even the cultural identity of many of them are being transformed to admire and want to be like the most famous leaders of certain cartels, this can be seen on how they sing the “narco corridos” (narco-music), using clothing and speaking a language that appears to be in the form of code, for example the so-called “Altered Movement” which is becoming more popular.
The specialists in the field, Jose Manuel Valenzuela Arce Ph.D. in Social Sciences with a major in sociology at El Colegio de Mexico, believes that “the figures that represent the ethical dimension of society are damaged and there is a correspondence between ethical values and social recognition, in the eyes of many children there is no qualitative difference between the police and the drug dealer.”
When interviewed for the report cited above, Valenzuela Arce said that the lack of options, especially in terms of education and employment, is reflected and confirmed in two national surveys, the Survey of the Mexican Institute of Youth (IMJUVE) and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare on children and young people who neither study or work in the country, pointed out that there are about 1.5 million children from 5 to 17 years of age who neither study nor work, and about 7,800,000 thousand young people from 12 to 29 years of age who also do not study nor work, “that population is easy prey for the drug cartels and organized crime.”
When talking about organized crime in Mexico, it is very important to distinguish between local gangs and transnational gangs which are much more organized that the first one, and work together with major drug cartels. Often, local bands and gangs are not involved in transnational organized crime, and they only want the control their territory.
The local gang is usually the easiest and most common way for children to enter into regular interaction with organized crime. In that case, the main role is limited to small drug-selling, and in some cases acting as protectors of the activities of criminal organizations, this is not consider as membership.
We can talk about child membership in a criminal group, when these children are incorporated into the operating headquarters of transnational gangs, working with and for the drug cartels. For example, it is known that the “Mara Salvatrucha” is working with Los Zetas and about 35,000 children and young people are involved, while the M18 is operating with the Sinaloa cartel and enrolls about 8,000 children and youth.
There are no hard data on numbers or types of crimes committed by theses gangs, whether local or transnational.
Carlos Astudillo, director of the organization “Humanistic Culture” said in a interview with yoinfluyo.com that the problem with children linked to organized crime is a complex situation to be addressed by all sectors of society. He also indicated that the first ones to respond in such an important problem must be family members in order to prevent, ” it must be a labor of awareness by the parents in regard to the duties they have with their children.”
Even when Yucatan has the lower crime rates in the country, it is ranked one of the first in human trafficking. The Mexico Attorney General Office released a repot performed by Celina Izquierdo Sanchez from the organization “Redes Turismo” in September 2011 stating that Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Jalisco, Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero are states with a high index, which is related to their touristic activities.
The Yucatan State Police has received the visits of several specialized police corporations from Canada, U.S, and Israel, which has trained the local police to handle very violent situations, also law enforcement has been equipped with more and powerful weapons, the new Police Complex of Security was inaugurated two years ago, which works with cutting edge technology and a new surveliance system in certain parts or Merida, all this is to maintain the enviroment of safety that the yucatecans enjoy.
Last May, during the visit of the presidential candidate Gabriel Quadri from the Nueva Alianza party, in an interview he declared that Yucatan is not ready to handle the threat of the organized crime, which sounded contradictory to the present situation of the State Police.
However, this year the federal budget assigned to Yucatan in this item received an important cut back, also the “trust test” that must be applied to every single police or security enforcement in the country presents a significant delay in the state of Yucatan, with only 1% of the tests applied on the three different corporation in the State (State, Municipal and Magisterial polices), raising several concerns about the people who take care of our safety.
Is the Yucatan police ready to deal with the very bad guy? Are they ready to be vigilant to watch for our children when the organized crime try to enroll them? Obviously we do not want this situation to actually happen, we love our state for its tranquility, but we need to be ready, our biggest mistake will be to lower our gaurd.