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Drug Cartels Recruit Child Soldiers

By McCarton Ackerman 03/28/13

Kids as young as 11 are reportedly being dragged into Mexico's brutal drug war.

Drug cartels stoop lower and lower. Photo via

The notoriously brutal Mexican drug cartels are resorting to even more desperate measures with the recruitment of child soldiers. According to a new report from The International Crisis Group, the cartels "have recruited thousands of street gang members, school drop-outs and unskilled workers" over the last decade, many of whom are under the age of 18 and some as young as 11. Military officers interviewed by ICG said that the underage soldiers are used as "cannon fodder" against superior military Mexican forces or thrown into suicide attacks. “We will go on patrol and face an ambush by these young kids who don’t even know how to shoot. When you have disciplined soldiers they are going to win in these shoot-outs,” said one of the officers. “But then maybe the troops are being held up, while the bad guys are moving drugs or carrying out a murder somewhere else. And by attacking the army, they are trying to show the population that they have the power.” The kids are often manipulated into joining the cartels, then given basic weapons instruction at training camps in remote areas. They are then put into cells led by experienced cartel soldiers, who have some prior training with the military or police. For their highly-dangerous work, the kids are reportedly paid as little as $78 for a murder; others make between $390-468 every two weeks. However, kids continue to flow in as "recruits" due to neglect from the government and their own families. "The schools are closed, and there is no work and no opportunity," said Juan Pablo Garcia, a social worker in the Mexican city of Monterrey. "On the other side, the criminals, they say, ‘Come here. There is a job for you.’” 

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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