Sunday 3 March 2013

Cartel hitman was seven years old when drug war began

Community policing in Ayutla
He was seven when the “drug war” began over six years ago.

Perhaps, if they had looked into his eyes then, those who believe that the victims of this conflict flow into a never-ending stream of riff-raff who are doing us all a favour by killing each other, would think twice.

And they might want to consider some of the other innocent victims, too.

The boy, Jorge Armando Moreno, was arrested early in February with 15 other suspects near the town of Morelos, in the state of Zacatecas. He confessed to taking part in 10 executions, and of working for Los Zetas.

But because of his age – no one under 14 can be criminally prosecuted in Zacatecas – he was released into his family’s custody. It is believed that Los Zetas cartel are behind the torture and murder of Jorge and five others.  Among the dead in the revenge killing are the boy’s mother, three unidentified women, and a man.

Mexico is a young country, which is why many people feel great optimism and hope. But to the extent that thousands of young people are without work or education, and are then preyed upon by brutal criminal organizations, it risks facing a long-term and chronic plague where common delinquency becomes a life-long commitment to crime.

For example, in a recent article in Frontera NorteSur, a “hooded 12-year-old boy” is quoted as saying that he had been “forced to watch murders and body dismemberments” as part of a brutal training program for him to become a "damn hit man."

This was in Ayutla, Guerrero, where the indigenous population is so fed up with crime, and with the negligence or complicity of government security forces, it has decided to set up its own community policing.

According to the article, the boy’s grandmother urged him to come forward and tell his story. His father was out of the picture. And his mother? She had moved to the United States nine years ago.

"That's why I decided to come," he said. "It's important for parents to take care of their children."

As migrants move north, many of them dying along the way, and leave children behind to be cared for by extended family living in poor communities preyed upon by criminal organizations, Mexico will face an uncertain future.

This use of children by Mexican cartels is not new. There was the infamous report of the 14-year old boy named El Ponchis a few years ago, as well as reports of teenage girls being hired as killers. Gangsters prey on children for obvious reasons: they are easy to lure and to intimidate, and once involved they are owned for life – however brief that may be.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)

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Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
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