Things That Matter

Mexican Children As Young At 6 Are Training To Be Child Soldiers Against The Growing Violence At The Hands Of Cartels

Mexico has long been battling a drug war against a sprawling network of powerful cartels. However, in many parts of the country, the government isn’t focused on helping end the violence.

Most federal forces and national guard troops are sent to protect major cities or tourist destinations – think Acapulco, Cancun, or Mexico City.

This lack of protection is leading many across the country to come up with their own ways to defend themselves.

In the midst of a cartel war zone, children as young as six are taking up arms to fight back against growing cartels.

Credit: @nela_minded / Twitter

The Mexican Drug War started over a decade ago but with each passing year, it becomes more violent, despite promises from the new president to begin winding it down. The first three months of 2019 were the deadliest yet – with nearly 9,000 murders across the country.

Guerrero, a state that is home to the tourist resort of Acapulco and just south of the capital of Mexico City, is particularly deadly. It often tops the list of most deadly states in the country and is actually designated a ‘no-go zone’ by the US State Department.

It’s here in the Nahua village of Rincòn de Chautla where children as young as six are being trained to fight back against the cartels.

They march, train, and carry fake rifles made of tree branches while their instructor is armed with a real gun.

Credit: @RolandHuschke / Twitter

In a recent report, The Daily Beast spoke to several of these child soldiers. One six-year-old, Jeremías Ramìrez, said: “We’re practicing to defend our town, so los sicarios won’t be able to kill us.”

Angélica Flores, 12, when said: “If they come, we’ll be ready for them.” She wants her village to have “peace, justice, and to keep out the criminals.”

Both children are members of the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities (CRAC). Under Mexican law, indigenous peoples have traditionally been allowed to form policías comunitarias (community police) groups like CRAC.

As cartel violence has surged in recent years, these comunitarios, as they’re commonly called, are often the only protection available against ruthless and predatory cartels. Rincón de Chautla and the surrounding pueblos – all of which sit on an important shipping corridor for drugs and other contraband – are no exception.

In just the past month, seven villagers have been murdered or abducted.

Credit: @rebeccaplevin / Twitter

There have been seven Nahua murdered or abducted in the last month alone, five of whom were high-ranking members of the CRAC.

Two of these were dismembered by the Ardillos Cartel and left in trash bags at the side of the road running into Chilapa city in late May. The most recent victim, a retired community policeman named Eugenio Máximo, was dumped just outside of Rincón de Chautla on June 2nd.

The Nahua people can’t trust anyone but themselves for defense.

The communities of these rugged mountains say they are powerless without their own forces. They can’t rely on the soldiers or the police as they know they’re working with Los Ardillos.

One villager told The Daily Beast, “Once we’re dead our children must know how to defend themselves. The government is never going to save them.”

Even human rights organizations see few other options for the people of Rincòn de Chautla. “These communities are desperate,” one organization leader told The Daily Beast, “and there’s no one to turn to for help.”

But all-female brigade commander Rodrìguez has an even simpler answer for CRAC’s critics.“If those in the government don’t like women and niños training,” she says, “then let them do their job and protect us.”

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