A child militia in Mexico’s southwestern state of Guerrero is training boys, some as young as 6, to serve as the last line of defense should a cartel strike the community, as it has others.
The militia is known as CRAC-PF emerged in 2014 to replace police that were believed to be corrupt.
Due to an increase in violence, and targeted attacks by a local drug cartel they’ve taken the drastic step of training children as young as six to use guns. Government officials and human rights groups are accusing the militia of child exploitation.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the militia should be “ashamed” for arming the boys. “Training children to use weapons and then filming them is an abuse,” he said.
Violence erupted in 2019 and a growing number of people from Ayahualtempa were murdered when they ventured outside the village: one man shot in his car, another kidnapped, a boy shot dead in broad daylight.
The number of murders in the six miles around the village more than doubled in 2019 from a year earlier, said Chris Kyle, a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who studies violence in the region.
Boys 12 and older were given guns, a mix of 22-caliber rifles and 20-gauge shotguns. The younger boys practiced with sticks and toys, in preparation for the day when they can carry guns.
The escalation in violence comes amid a larger security crisis in Mexico, with 2019 registering the highest number of murders on record.