Children Recruited As Police In Mexico

A hauntingly bleak short film by the New Yorker characterizes Guerrero, Mexico as "the monster in the mountains." One of the most impoverished and violence-rich states in the country, Guerrero is a place where kids have to choose between losing their innocence and losing their lives. The BBC reports that in 2020, "more than 20 children lost their fathers" in a barrage of bullets when a group of gunmen attacked a group of indigenous musicians called Sensación Musical. Ten people were killed, and some of the slain performers were as young as 15.

Per Der Spiegel, the region has seen an increase in cartels targeting young children. Gangs have begun to abduct youngsters, conscripting them to serve as foot soldiers, contract killers, and warehouse workers. Amid the monstrosity, Guerrero's grief-stricken and frustrated residents have decided to save their children from crime by turning them into law enforcement.

Desperate times call for deputizing measures

In 2020 footage emerged of the newest officers Guerrero's police force — and they were also relatively new to life itself. Some were just six years old, and the oldest were only 15. As Der Spiegel describes, the youngest among them brandished sticks while the older bunch wielded old rifles. They masked their faces with handkerchiefs, wore matching shirts but had little else in terms of a uniform. They wore sandals and sneakers. Their training ground was the mountains, an unwitting visual metaphor for the uphill battle they faced.

Per the BBC, roughly 20 children joined in January, some of whom were still mourning the loss of their family members in the vicious assault. Reuters writes that the seven- and 10-year-old daughters of David Sanchez Luna underwent weapons training after his mother-in-law was tortured and murdered by cartels. They receive these harsh life lessons instead of school because it's too deadly to get an education in their town.

Human rights activist Abel Barrera of Tlachinollan called the use of child officers "a cry for help," lamenting, "Left alone by the state, the indigenous people are defenseless against the mafias." According to the BBC, the local press describes the unorthodox force as a way to "[send] a message" to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who adopted a "non-confrontational" response to cartels that has been dubbed "abrazos, no balazos," or "hugs not bullets." Presumably, that message is: if parents didn't have to worry about bullets, they'd have more time to hug their children.