Young Children Armed With Guns Fight to Take Back Their Village

( – Violence has become a regular issue in many areas of Mexico, where cartels terrorize communities and kidnappings are commonplace. Guerrero, one of its poorest states, has become a territorial battleground for drug traffickers, leaving innocent residents struggling to live their lives amid the lawless chaos. One village is arming its teens and adolescent children with guns to take back what’s theirs and restore order.

Local kidnappings have become a serious issue in Ayahualtempa, a village in Guerrero, so local law enforcement has resorted to arming children — their youngest recruits being 12 years old. The kids, who covered their faces with handkerchiefs, joined the village’s volunteer patrol in an effort to protect themselves and those around them while the adults conducted missing persons searches. Ayahualtempa has roughly 700 residents, but it suffers heavy crime rates due to the cartels running the region.

All of Guerrero is overrun by violence, with crimes against women being a particularly serious problem. The International Federation for Human Rights reported that the state had 712 missing women in 2023. Recent escalations in violence across the state, including a handful of abductions in Ayahualtempa, led to the additional child volunteers. The New York Post notes that minors have joined in previous defense efforts in Guerrero, adding that officials throughout the state have repeatedly found themselves overwhelmed by the ongoing violence.

The publication “Violence and Insecurity in Guerrero” shares that local policing is only available through community networks, but in many cases, it’s controlled by the cartels themselves. In these areas, criminals rarely pay for crimes even as severe as kidnapping, extortion, and murder.

UNICEF states that the recruitment of children for armed defense purposes is a violation of international humanitarian law. The organization recognizes the horrific conditions many of these minors must endure, but it also insists that “child soldiers” and the like often face added abuse and exploitation.

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