Mexico, the Deadliest Latin American Country for Children
By JESSICA GUERRERO
MORELIA, Michoacán —The constant climate of extreme violence in which Mexico has lived since the start of the so-called drug war in 2006 has left a huge red stain in the modern history of the country. From 2006 to 2021 alone, it is estimated that 350,000 people were killed in the country because of drug wars and power struggles between cartels and other organized crime groups, and at least 72,000 people have been missing since then, more than 30,000 of whom have disappeared during the last four years under the watch of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).
This situation by itself has had a great impact on the quality of life of Mexicans, but it is especially the nation’s children and adolescents who have had to bear witness to the most atrocious side of the violence generated by organized crime. Just under AMLO’s administration alone, so far 4,090 minors have been murdered.
According to statistics, an average of seven children are killed under violent circumstances every day in Mexico, 70 percent of them by firearms. Such numbers even surpass those of Syria, which has been in a civil war since 2011.
The incidence of these murders is concentrated mainly in the states of Michoacán, Guanajuato, Tamaulipas, Jalisco and Zacatecas. The security conditions that these states face due to disputes between local criminal groups have favored the rise of violent crimes against Mexican children.
The figures do not lie: From 2015 to 2022, the number of intentional homicides with a firearm against minors in Mexico grew by 136.6 percent, according to data compiled by the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System.
Added to this is the prevalent danger that children in Mexico face of being recruited and exploited by cartels and criminal groups since, according to current estimates, between 145,000 and 250,000 children and adolescents are at risk of joining the crime ranks.
The states with the largest number of children and adolescents at risk of being recruited to work with cartels are the State of Mexico, Jalisco and Chiapas. These three states also have high levels of marginalization, poverty and educational backwardness, key factors in the incidence of juvenile criminality due to the vulnerability of this population.
The problem faced by children and adolescents in Mexico, far from being a priority for the Mexican government due to its seriousness, has instead been seen and addressed as collateral damage from the war against drug trafficking.
And it is because of this that, to date, no strategic plan has been legislated or presented to safeguard the life and integrity of the nation’s most vulnerable population, which represents a full third of the total inhabitants of Mexico, that is, more than 33 million children and minors.
The forced invisibility of this problem by the authorities only favors the conditions for the situation to continue to worsen and spread to every corner of the country. Mexican children are in blatant danger in the shadow of a constant climate of violence that prevails across Mexico.
According to the current trend, it is expected that the year 2022 will be the deadliest for Mexican children and adolescents in modern post-revolutionary Mexican history.
And if the government continues to do nothing, the number of murdered children will only continue to climb.