A Mexican community in Guerrero state is arming their children against drug cartels. Too afraid to step out of their enclave of 16 mountain villages in the violence-plagued area, residents say they have been left with little choice.
Corn farmers in the rugged region formed a self-defence “community police” militia to protect themselves five years ago and recruited children as young as six.
Videos of kids toting military-style guns emerged in 2020, making global headlines.
Residents remain deeply suspicious of regional authorities and local policemen, who they accuse of being the eyes and ears of the cartels.
In January 2020, 10 musicians from the area were ambushed and killed by suspected cartel members after stepping out of the territory guarded by their self-defence militia.
Guerrero’s governor Hector Astudillo says he thinks this is a delicate issue.
“They arm their children. They are filmed. I think it is a delicate issue; recognising that there is a problem at the source, a number of deaths on one side, and also on the other side. That is what we found when we checked various areas after the violent and cowardly murder of the musicians. I think there is a problem that has not been addressed,” adds Astudillo.
The community sits amid fertile poppy-growing farmland that feed Guerrero’s heroin trade and supply routes to the United States.
Farmers said the cartels extort them, and force them to grow opium.
The Mexican government has been critical of arming children in the country’s restive regions, but it has struggled to get a grip on gangs and violence.