Children in Mexico: Criminals or victims?

A 14-year-old boy was found guilty last year of torturing and beheading at least four people for the South Pacific drug cartel.

Story highlights

  • The past year has seen numerous headlines of children being arrested in Mexico
  • At least 30,000 of them are involved in organized crime, says a nationwide group
  • The group says these children should be treated as abuse victims, not criminals
  • It is urging the government to rehabilitate the children and protect them
At least 30,000 children in Mexico are involved in some sort of organized crime, according to a nationwide alliance of civic and social organizations.
The Child Rights Network in Mexico says many of these children are taking part because of death threats or because of economic and social necessity. It is urging the government to start recognizing them as victims of child abuse.
"The drug cartels are not training them to be ringleaders," spokeswoman Veronica Morales said. "It is a new form of abuse in which they are being used to commit an offense, to violate the law and to deceive authorities."
In the past year, there have been numerous headlines of children being arrested in Mexico.
Perhaps the most high-profile case involved a 14-year-old boy known as "El Ponchis" ("The Cloak"). He was found guilty of torturing and beheading at least four people for the South Pacific drug cartel.
A month after the boy was sentenced to three years in a correctional facility, a 13-year-old girl was captured in the state of Jalisco and accused of being part of the Zetas drug cartel.
Authorities said the girl was receiving 8,000 pesos a month -- almost $800 -- for being a lookout. She would let gang members know who was entering and who was leaving Luis Moya, a municipality in north-central Mexico.
In January of last year, a 15-year-old boy was captured in Jiutepec, just outside of Mexico City. During an impromptu news conference on the street, the child confessed that he was a lookout for the South Pacific cartel. He said he was collaborating with the cartel because of death threats.