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Gunmen in Mexico's Drug War Getting Younger

By buckcamp, Nov 15, 2010 | Updated: Nov 15, 2010 | | |
  1. buckcamp
    View attachment 17855
    MEXICO CITY – Mexican police on Friday detained a minor accused of working as a gunman for a drug cartel after shocking videos and photos surfaced online of fresh-faced boys mugging for the camera with guns and corpses.

    One video, briefly posted on YouTube, showed a youth, apparently in his teens, confessing to working for a branch of the Beltran Leyva cartel. While the authenticity of the video could not be determined, cartels in Mexico frequently post such interrogation videos to expose their rivals' crimes.

    The youth tells an unseen questioner that his gang was paid $3,000 per killing. "When we don't find the rivals, we kill innocent people, maybe a construction worker or a taxi driver," the youth is heard saying.

    Pedro Luis Benitez, the attorney general of central Morelos state, told a local radio station Friday that police had detained a minor who allegedly worked as a gunman for a drug cartel and were looking for another. He did not say whether the minor who was detained or the one being sought had appeared online.

    While Benitez did not give the age of the suspects, he implied they were young enough to be playing with toy guns. "It is easy for them (criminals) to give them a firearm, making it appear as it if were a plastic weapon and that it is a game, when in fact it is not," Benitez said.

    Local media reported police were seeking a 12-year-old killer nicknamed "El Ponchis," but there was no confirmation of that from prosecutors.

    President Felipe Calderon, who launched the offensive against cartels in 2006, acknowledged several months ago that "in the most violent areas of the country, there is an unending recruitment of young people without hope, without opportunities."

    Suspects under 18 are prosecuted in a separate legal system for youthful offenders for most crime in Mexico. But there are growing calls for both that and the nation's overcrowded adult prison system to be revamped.

    View attachment 17856 Nov. 3, 2010: A Mexican Navy soldier watch as forensic workers remove a body which was buried at a field in the town of Tuncingo, southern Mexico.

    Mexico has more than doubled the number of people in federal prisons in the last two years as part of the country's crackdown on drug cartels, the country's top cop said Friday. While the federal prison system had about 4,500 inmates in 2008, there are now 11,000.

    "Where more disorder exists, there will be more violence," said Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna. "The penitentiaries can be places where not only do people complete their punishments, but where future delinquent conduct is prevented."

    He cited one prison in particular, Islas Marias, which has seen its inmate population quadruple since 2006. Located off the coast of Sinaloa state, the prison now houses 3,946 inmates, up from 915.
    "We are trying to abate the deficit of space and modernize our prison system," he said.

    In the case of Islas Marias, the government expanded so it can now house more than 5,000 inmates, but more needs to be done, especially as cartel violence continues, Garcia Luna said.

    In recent years the government has detained thousands of suspected drug traffickers. In addition to the eight federal prisons, the country has 92 state and 333 municipal jails. The most dangerous nonfederal criminals are housed in the federal prisons.

    More than 28,000 Mexicans have been killed since late 2006 in drug-related violence, and 2010 is on track to be the bloodiest so far.

    This crime photo depicts five men who were tortured, murdered and then decapitated. A note scrawled on the bloody floor warns of more to come.

    In Acapulco on Friday, three men were shot to death in separate incidents, including one found dead on Costera Miguel Aleman, the main boulevard of the tourist zone. In all three cases, police in the Guerrero state had no motive for the killings or suspects.

    In Morelia, the state capital of Michoacan, two billboards put up by the federal Attorney General's Office offering rewards for information about members of La Familia cartel were found torched.

    The burning came a day after a letter surfaced purportedly signed by "La Familia Michoacana." It claimed the cartel wants to protect Michoacan and its residents and says the group will disband if federal police promise to act honestly and fight to the death to defend the state. There was no way to know whether the letter was legitimate.

    Federal officials say the cartel is responsible for the state's bloodshed -- including the deaths of 18 officers last year. Last week, in response to the arrest of two alleged cartel members, the gang set trucks on fire to block entries to Morelia and sprayed a shopping mall with automatic-weapons fire, according to the state attorney general's office.

    Meanwhile, the Mexican government plans to auction luxury jewelry and cars, planes and helicopters seized from drug traffickers and use the money to help pay for its campaign against organized crime.

    The items to be auctioned next Thursday and Friday include a Rolex watch made of 18-carat white gold and encrusted with 60 white diamonds and a gold ring with a 12.25-carat diamond that will start bidding at $114,000.

    Published November 15, 2010 | Associated Press


  1. buckcamp
    7 circles of Juarez: teenage assassins

    7 circles of Juarez: teenage assassins

    CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — At less than 5 feet 6 inches with acne and a mop of curly hair, 17-year-old Jose Antonio doesn’t look particularly menacing.

    But in his tender years, he has seen more firefights and murders than many soldiers serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    Indeed, Jose Antonio has come of age in a war zone. And he has served as a soldier, siding squarely with the insurgent drug gangs of Juarez.

    He said he first picked up a gun at 12 years old, when he joined the calaberas, or “skulls,” one of the gangs that rule the slums that climb up sun-baked hills on the west side of this sprawling border city.

    By 14, he had his hand in armed robberies and drug dealing and was involved in regular gun battles with rival gangs, he confessed to police.

    At 16, he was nabbed for possession of a small arsenal of weapons — including two automatic rifles and an Uzi — and accessory to a drug-related murder.

    He was sentenced to three years and one month in the “Juarez School of Improvement,” the city's juvenile detention center known more for the hardened and desperate young adults who emerge than for any kind of improvement.

    “Being in shoot-outs is just pure adrenalin,” he said, smiling, as he sat in the youth prison’s dining area behind a towering outer wall that is protected against gunfire by sandbags and guards hidden behind ski masks for their own protection.

    Teenagers and young men like Jose Antonio provide a vast army of recruits for the drug cartel armies, which produce cheap assassins-for-hire who have drowned the streets in blood.

    There have been more than 5,500 murders in Juarez since January 2008. More than 1,400 of the victims, or about a quarter of the total, are under 24.

    Back in the 20th century, Mexican "gatilleros," or triggermen, were mostly older professionals, who dispatched their victims in the dark of the night — a life described in a 1983 book “The Black of the Black,” by Jose Gonzalez.

    “I started killing at age 28 and in my conscience know of more than 50 individuals I have sent to the other world,” wrote Gonzalez.
    But in the explosive war for control of Juarez’s trafficking routes and street corners, many killers are teenagers or in their early 20s, enlisted from bloodthirsty street gangs.

    While the older triggermen used to make small fortunes for their sanguine trade, gang members say they will now carry out a murder for as little as $100.

    “There is killing every single day. So now it’s no big deal,” Jose Antonio said, unblinking. “You see dead bodies and you feel nothing.”

    Prison authorities agreed to let Jose Antonio and other inmates speak on the condition that full names or photos not be used. Speaking to the press can be seen as informing and alleged "suplones," or snitches, are regularly murdered here.

    The School of Improvement now holds 63 inmates under the age of 19, convicted of crimes including homicide, kidnapping and rape. More than 90 percent are gang members, said prison psychologist Elizabeth Villegas, but they represent only a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of gangbangers on Juarez’s streets.

    “Most come from broken families and don’t recognize rules or limits,” Villegas said. “They don’t feel anything that they have murdered people. They just don’t understand the pain that they have caused others.”

    Drug cartels know that teenage assassins face little time in jail. Under Mexican law, a minor can receive a maximum sentence of five years whatever the crime. If the same deeds were committed over the border in Texas, they could be imprisoned for up to 40 years, or for life if they were tried as adults.

    Jose Antonio’s family is typical of those populating the slums that have sprawled on the outskirts of Juarez in recent decades.

    His parents immigrated from a country village in the southern state of Veracruz to sweat for $6 a day in assembly plants owned by Japanese and American firms.

    While they held old-fashioned country customs, celebrating village saint days and respecting the power of local patriarchs, he grew up in a city of 1.3 million, flooded with drugs heading north, and guns and contraband consumer goods flowing south.

    His parents labored for long hours on production lines, leaving him alone for much of the day and he quickly become involved in the “Calaberas” street gang.

    "The gang becomes like your home, your family. You feel part of something,” he said. “And you know the gang will back you up if you are in trouble.”

    A recent study found that 120,000 Juarez youngsters aged 13 to 24 — or 45 percent of the total — are not enrolled in any education or do not have any formal employment.

    Drug cartels step in to provide jobs, using their operatives in the slums to look out for talented young gunslingers for hire, the imprisoned gang members explained.

    The incorporation of street gang members into the cartel armies has lead to bloody repercussions. When a few members of a gang are identified as working for a cartel, a rival cartel often tries to wipe out the entire gang, massacring the youth of certain neighborhoods.

    The mother of one imprisoned gang member showed a deserted street corner outside her home. “A year ago there was about 20 kids hanging around here. Now almost all of them have been killed,” she said, asking her name be withheld in case of repercussions. “I am glad my son is in prison or else he probably would have been murdered by now too.”

    Social worker Sandra Ramirez counsels teenagers in the slums and has seen dozens of youngsters get recruited into the ranks of organized crime in jobs including look-outs and drug sellers as well as assassins.
    She said that parents here often neglect their children, with many broken homes and demanding jobs in assembly plants or in the city’s huge sex industry.

    “We have been a permissive society and let a lot of things pass,” she said. “I work with one 14-year-old, whose parents are broken up and each has a new family. He doesn’t feel he has a family himself so he spends all day on the street and that is where he has started criminal activities.”
    However, she said the government has also grossly disregarded the slums, failing to provide adequate schools or job opportunities.

    “The government just puts Band-Aids on the problems ... . It is only them (the cartels) that are coming to these kids and offering them anything,” Ramirez said. “They offer them money, cell phones and guns to protect themselves. You think these kids are going to refuse? They have nothing to lose. They only see the day to day.

    They know they could die and they say so. But they don’t care. Because they have lived this way all their lives.”

    By Ioan Grillo - GlobalPost
    Published: July 13, 2010 06:51 ET in The Americas
  2. buckcamp
    Timeline: the meltdown of Ciudad Juarez

    Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, is the world's most murderous city.

    [IMGL="white"]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=17924&stc=1&d=1290021357[/IMGL]Dec. 1, 2000: President Vicente Fox takes power, ending 71 years of one-party presidential rule.

    Jan. 19, 2001: Convicted drug lord Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman escapes from a high security prison in a laundry van. His Sinaloa cartel rises.

    Feb. 10, 2002: Kingpin Ramon Arellano Felix is shot dead by police in Mazatlan, ending the national dominance of his Tijuana cartel.

    [IMGL="white"]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=17925&stc=1&d=1290021357[/IMGL]March 14, 2003: Mexican army captures Osiel Cardenas, head of the Gulf cartel and their bloody enforcers, the Zetas. Control of his valuable territory is up for grabs.

    2004: Violence erupts in Nuevo Laredo as Guzman's Sinoloa cartel tries to seize the border from the Gulf cartel and Zetas.

    June 8, 2005: Nuevo Laredo police chief Alejandro Dominguez is shot dead by Zetas only six hours after he swears into office. Asked earlier that day if he was scared, he replied, "No, I'm not frightened, because I have a clean conscience."

    Sept. 6, 2006: Affiliates of Zetas throw five severed heads onto a dance floor in Uruapan, Michoacan. The violence is part of a broader struggle by Zetas and their affiliates to hit back against the Sinoloa cartel against Mexico.

    Dec. 1, 2006: President Felipe Calderon takes office. He immediately heads a national campaign to fight drug cartels and restore order, starting in his home state of Michoacan.

    March 15, 2007: Police seize $205.6 million in cash in a Mexico City mansion in the world's biggest ever drug cash seizure.

    Oct. 30, 2007: Mexican navy makes biggest cocaine bust in world history, seizing 23.5 tons on coast of Manzanillo.

    Jan. 5, 2008: Violence explodes in Ciudad Juarez, as Guzman's Sinoloa cartel tries to take control of the city.

    May 8, 2008: An assassin kills Federal Police Chief Edgar Millan in his home in Mexico City. On the same day, gunmen kill the son of "Shorty" Guzman in Culiacan, Sinoloa. Violence flares up in Sinoloa, Juarez, and Tijuana.

    Sept. 15, 2008: Assassins throw grenades into Independence Day celebrations in Morelia, Michoacan, killing eight. The attack is blamed on the Zetas.

    April 26, 2009: President Barack Obama makes his first visit to Mexico under intense security. He promises to stand shoulder to shoulder in the drug war and deliver $1.6 billion in aid.

    Dec. 31, 2009: The federal government records a total of 9,635 drug-related murders across Mexico over the year, by far its most violent on record.

    March 13, 2010: Assassins kill three people linked to U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez. Security raised for U.S. government employees all across Mexico.

    [IMGL="white"]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=17926&stc=1&d=1290021357[/IMGL]June 28, 2010: A squad of 15 gunmen dressed as soldiers kill favorite gubernatorial candidate in Victoria, Tamaulipas. Calderon calls for united political front against drug threat.

    Compiled by Ioan Grillo and Alexa Rosenthall.
    By News Desk — GlobalPost Editors
    Published: July 13, 2010 06:52 ET in The Americas
  3. buckcamp
    Schools in Ciudad Juarez targeted by extortionists

    MEXICO CITY – Authorities in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez are investigating extortion threats posted outside local schools demanding payments from teachers.

    A state official says messages threatening violence if teachers didn't fork over their Christmas bonuses were posted in recent weeks at five elementary and secondary schools.

    The official spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because he isn't authorized to release information to the media.

    He says authorities determined the messages at two schools were hoaxes, probably posted by students as a joke.

    The official says the messages left outside the three other schools are still under investigation, but adds that authorities are taking the threats seriously.

    Published November 26, 2010 | Associated Press
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