Children in Mexico given weapon's training Pixabay

On January 22, 2020, pictures of a vigilante group in southern Mexico, training a troop of 19 armed and masked children, as young as 5, to act as “community police” were publicly released. The kids in the troop were somewhere between 5 to 15-years-old and carried shotguns and rifles as they performed drills on a road in the township of Alcozacán in southern Guerrero state. Perturbed by the pictures, many, including the President of Mexico, have condemned the vigilante group's training of children.

The incident took place after a local drug gang killed 10 men and burned most of their bodies in a town near Alcozacán. And now the vigilante organizers are defending their action of training kids by saying that they will be the ones to guard their villages against the drug gang as their recruits as young as six will be conducting armed defense patrols. It is imperative to note that Mexico has been embroiled in record levels of violence for the past two years.

But it is not just the vigilante groups that are recruiting children as Mexico's president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, revealed that even drug cartels are recruiting younger kids.

“The gangs are having trouble getting hitmen, so they are recruiting more children and young people because there is competition,” López Obrador said. “The thing is, the social programs are giving youths more options, and that is leading them (gangs) to get desperate, and they are looking to reinforce themselves with kids.”

As per, López Obrador the best solution to avoid children from being recruited is “to attack the root causes, to stop the breakdown of families, to strengthen values and material welfare, to give attention to young people.”

And even though the head of the Guerrero state human rights office has vehemently condemned the vigilantes for exposing the children to danger, authorities “have been systematically negligent.” According to the prison and youth advocacy group, Reinserta Un Mexicano A.C., the authorities have been unsuccessful in “guaranteeing minimal conditions of welfare for these communities and in defending the rights of children”.

Bernardino Sanchez Luna, one of the leaders of the community police, has shared that the children have been recruited as “the government has no skill or interest in defending indigenous people from criminal gangs.” They hope that now, with the involvement of kids, politicians will visit the community and attend to their requests. He also explained that of all the children they are training, 66 had been orphaned in the recent violence. Children in the area have only attended primary school as attending secondary school would mean leaving the security of their community.

© 2024 Latin Times. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.