Here's an excerpt from Nick Valencia's article on CNN.com:
"As state authorities in Mexico asked federal prosecutors to take over the case of a 14-year-old accused of working as a drug-cartel hit man, the head of a children's rights organization criticized authorities' handling of the teen's detention. Martin Perez, director of Mexico's Children's Rights Network, said late Friday that authorities should not have given television cameras and newspaper photographers access to the 14-year-old after his capture Thursday night... 'Everyone has the right to be presumed innocent, and also, it could put his life at serious risk. We have to remember that this is a fight between criminal organizations,' he said... Morelos state Gov. Marco Adame told reporters that he had asked for an inquiry into the teen's migratory status after preliminary reports indicated that the 14-year-old was carrying a birth certificate issued in San Diego, California, when authorities detained him and two of his sisters at an airport in central Mexico... Citing unnamed military sources, Notimex said that the teen told authorities that he was a member of the Pacifico Sur cartel and had killed four people under orders from its leader. He also said he was a U.S. citizen and was under the influence of drugs when he carried out the crimes, according to Notimex... Sylvia Longmire, a former U.S. Air Force officer and senior intelligence analyst specializing in Latin America and Mexico's drug war, said Mexican drug lords often use young children. 'We've known for some time that Mexican-hired assassins were getting younger, but the story of a 14-year-old getting involved in this grisly business still carries some shock value,' Longmire said." Link to Full Article
Analysis: OK, yes, I have an ulterior motive for picking this story to comment on...I was quoted in it. That doesn't change the fact that the story of this 14 year-old kid highlights some of the major societal problems Mexico is facing. Nick Valencia, the CNN producer who put this story together, asked me to comment on what this kid's situation says about the state of Mexico's youth. Here's what I replied:
"We've known for some time that Mexican hired assassins were getting younger, but the story of a 14 year-old getting involved in this grisly business still carries some shock value. It's a testament to the fact that much of Mexico's youth has few prospects down the road, either in education or employment. Even if a teenager or pre-teen were to stay in school and finish, they'd be hard-pressed to find a legitimate job that would pay anywhere near what the cartels pay to either sell drugs or kill people. There's also the fact that parental guidance for these younger kids is often absent, either because the parents have split or both are working several jobs with long hours in fields, on ranches, or in factories. This leaves their children to get stars in their eyes when they see the glamorous lifestyle that the narcos lead, with their armored cars, tailored suits, gold-plated guns, gorgeous girlfriends, and bodyguards. This won't be the last time we hear stories of young children picking up arms and killing people because it pays, and because they think it's cool."
One other thing I'd like to mention about the story that I didn't care for. Martin Perez, the director of that children's rights group, says that everyone in Mexico has the right to be viewed as innocent until proven guilty. That statement is completely wrong, and shows Mr. Perez is either politicizing the situation or has little grasp of his own country's highly flawed justice system. In Mexico, you're actually considered guilty until proven innocent. Only recently has Calderón made a push for the introduction of oral arguments in trials. Evidence is presented on paper only, and there's no jury; the judges make the decisions.
If Perez is worried about this kid's life being at risk and not getting a fair shake in court, then maybe he should advocate for his extradition to the US, just like Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villarreal. Maybe then, through some kind of plea deal, we could find out more about DTO tactics of recruiting young kids as hitmen, and this 14 year-old might live to see 15. Wait...I just found out he's not wanted in the US, so extradition isn't an option. Now folks who are concerned about his future had better hope that the publicity his story is getting will shine a spotlight on his legal proceedings so that Mexican officials will be more likely to do things by the book. I won't hold my breath.