In a lawless stretch of western Mexico, children as young as 6 are taking up arms against organized crime.
This week, 19 children were conscripted into a vigilante group that for years has been battling drug gangs in restive Guerrero state. Images published by local journalists of the initiation ceremony — in which uniformed, rifle-wielding boys performed military-style maneuvers — drew outrage across Mexico, with human rights officials condemning the exercise as child abuse.
A leader of the vigilante group said in a phone interview Thursday that an increase in violence in the region and the absence of government intervention have left the community with no choice but to arm even its children.
“They must be prepared,” said Bernardino Sanchez Luna, who founded the self-defense group known as the CRAC-PF. “If they are afraid, the criminals will kill them like little chickens.”
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