Drug cartels are enlisting kids through video games, Mexico says


MVS Noticias documented cases of individuals claiming to belong to the Jalisco Cartel, Old School Zetas, and the Sinaloa Cartel contacting young people through late-night messages on games. — Technology photo created by freepik - www.freepik.com

Mexico’s government is warning parents to keep an eye on their children’s video game activity after cases emerged of drug cartels allegedly recruiting minors through online platforms.

Security officials gave details Wednesday about a case in Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca of three minors who boarded a bus with the promise of receiving payment to work as police-lookouts in the country’s north. Recruiters use initials for violent cartels like the Jalisco New Generation, the Cartel of the Northeast, and other groups to find their potential targets, Deputy Security Chief Ricardo Mejia said during a press briefing.

Murders in Mexico have remained near record levels as drug traffickers and other organized crime syndicates fight among each other and with the authorities, leaving a trail of grisly murders and mass graves, including in states like Zacatecas that were once considered safe. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has pledged to use a "hugs not bullets” approach of expanding social programs to bring down homicides, which he says dropped 3.4% so far this year, but violence remains high.

In the Oaxaca case, a recruiter offered one of the kids 8,000 pesos (US$396/RM1,645) for every half-month of work through the popular mobile battle royale game Free Fire. The minors were rescued earlier this month soon after leaving their homes, but local news outlets have reported other similar accounts. MVS Noticias documented cases of individuals claiming to belong to the Jalisco Cartel, Old School Zetas, and the Sinaloa Cartel contacting young people through late-night messages on games such as Grand Theft Auto V.

"This case was with a mobile video game, but it can be done through PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch consoles,” Mejia said. "Anonymous subjects enter into contact via Internet because they can play online, and that’s what starts the process of communication, persuasion, and recruitment.” – Bloomberg

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