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Mexican Cartels Recruit Children


The international tension surrounding the drug cartels in Mexico isn’t anything new – and neither are their tactics. Recruiting American and South American children alike, these murderous criminal enterprises brainwash impressionable youth and have them carry out heinous acts of violence – all for a bigger profit.

By using children, these cartels are doing what street gangs have been doing for a long time: giving kids who feel like they have no place in the world a home, and a supposed family. Therein lies the problem: these kids are fed a false sense of loyalty and belonging when they are truly being used as expendable killers, drug dealers, and distractions.

Cartels do not discriminate when it comes to luring youth into their webs. Many of these children come from broken homes, where they are either routinely neglected or abused and live in low income neighborhoods. A lot of these “child soldiers” are the outcasts in their schools, families, or communities and don’t feel a sense of belonging. Recruiters pick up on that and use it to their advantage. They promise kids—some as young as 11—easy money and a place to belong.

Some of these children are then taken to training camps, where they are taught how to use weapons – weapons that they are later directed to use against experienced army members. Other children are used to detect police surveillance, while still others are sent out on the street to push drugs and weapons. Overall, these children are being violently exploited and become a product of their environments.

Children are impressionable by nature, and do what they are taught to do, whether it’s being told to do so directly or repeatedly exposed to things. The kids these cartels are choosing are even more vulnerable due to their general unstable environments. So, when they are taught to shoot, they shoot to kill. When they are taught to sell drugs, they become a regular sight to junkies.

Unfortunately, these incidences aren’t isolated to their childhoods, and these children often grow into cold-blooded criminals as adults. Many of these kids who are caught are either “disposed of” by the cartels like old trash or sent to juvenile facilities, beginning a lifelong pattern of incarceration and crime. They are taught to hate, to be emotionless, and to be dangerous. So yes: these children become dangerous, but it is important that we don’t group them with all of the other cartel members. Rather, we must get them the help they need.

Children who are recruited and exploited by gangs or cartels are victims of a gang mentality that preys on vulnerability and desperation. While they need to be held accountable for their actions, especially when said actions are violent or destructive, they also need to be taught alternatives to what they have grown up with. We need to teach these kids that there other ways to belong and have a structure, and that the life of a cartel member will bring them nothing but pain and personal tragedy. They need to be taught about their worth as people, regardless of where they come from in life. These child killers are victims as much as they are perpetrators.

It is absolutely imperative that we continue to address these children who are being recruited by these cartels. It is a problem that won’t simply disappear by ignoring it or simply persecuting the children who are caught doing the bidding of their higher-ups.

We need to actively bring the message of self-worth, belonging, and choices to these kids before they get themselves mixed up in this deadly lifestyle, as well as demonstrate the ability to change for those who are already in. It is never too late to choose a different path, and it is never too early to be shown that you don’t have to choose the path of drug-running and violence in the first place.


Works Cited
Beckhusen, Robert. Don’t Panic, But Mexico’s Zetas Cartel Wants to Recruit Your Kids. 18 April 2013. 19 April 2013 .
—. How Mexico’s Drug Cartels Recruit Child Soldiers as Young as 11. March 2013. 19 April 2013 .
Heiser, James. Mexican Cartels are Recruiting American Children. 19 October 2011. 19 April 2013.

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Written by

A native New Yorker, Bre loves the California scene and writing for Treatment4Addiction. She has been writing content for T4A for five months, and loves to learn new things, form opinions, and send them out to the world. Her interests include dance, singing, acting, talking with friends, being a daughter, and being the best big sister she can to her 16 year old brother. After attending ASU for a few months, she is interested in taking cosmetology classes and exploring her options. She looks forward to learning all she can, and doing something positive with that knowledge and experience.

Filed under: Featured, Uncategorized · Tags: children, criminality, Drug Cartels, Drug dealers, Mexican Drug Cartels, Mexican gangs is operated by Recovery Brands LLC, a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, Inc.
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