‘Ninis’ are recruited by organized crime in Latin America

By Dialogo
October 11, 2013

Los Zetas, Mara Salvatrucha, Comando Vermelho and other organized crime groups operating in Latin America are recruiting “ninis,” children and young people who do not go to school or work.
Transnational criminal organizations and regional gangs are luring children, teenagers, and young adults with promises of money, weapons, luxury cars and drugs, according to security analysts and authorities. They are recruited to work as drug mules, lookouts and even as enforcers.
The recruits are known as “ninis,” because they neither go to school or work.

Less expensive

Organized crime groups recruit minors because they do not have to be paid as much as adult operatives, they face shorter periods of incarceration if captured, and they are easier to control, according to Héctor Castillo Berthier, a security analyst at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
Juveniles are more obedient than many adults and more willing to participate in shootouts with rival groups and security forces, according to the study “Children in Drug Trafficking” by Brazil’s Ministry of Labor.
Some children and teenagers are drawn to gangs and criminal organizations because they want to belong and crave attention from adults, the study found.

Young recruits

Gangs and criminal organizations have a large pool of teenagers and young adults to recruit from, according to the report “Finishing School: A Right for Children’s Development,” by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
In Latin America, 22 million people between the ages of 16 and 24 neither attend school nor go to work, according to the report.

Lured to danger

The prospect of facing danger while working for a gang or a criminal organization can be alluring to some of those young people, according to Castillo Berthier.
“For young recruits, combat is some sort of game, filled with adrenaline. The excitement is even greater when they realize they may die,” Castillo Berthier said. “They prefer to die young and rich than living to be old and poor.”
In Mexico, the Sinaloa Cartel, Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel (CDG) often recruit minors by force. Initially, minors are used as “mules” to transport drugs across the border. They are also put to work as lookouts, who are commonly known as “hawks.”
Drug cartel leaders will promote minors to the position of enforcer if they are willing to use violence, according to the newspaper La Cronica de Hoy.

Abuse and death

Transnational criminal organization operatives sometimes use teenage girls as sex slaves, according to the Coalition Against the Trafficking of Women and Young Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean. Operatives often kill the girls after they have abused them.
In Mexico, drug cartels recruited 23,000 juveniles from December 2006 to December 2011, according to a report by that country’s Public Security Commission.

Ninis are vulnerable

Ninis are spread out throughout the region. There are more than 6 million ninis in Mexico, 5 million in Brazil, 3 million in Colombia, more than 1 million in Argentina, 600,000 in Chile, 350,000 in Guatemala, and 240,000 in El Salvador, according to UNICEF.
“The lack of opportunities to study or work, poverty, inequality or simply the desire to obtain recognition, money, luxury and weapons are considered the main factors for teenagers to get involved in drug trafficking,” Castillo Berthier said.
To counter the recruitment efforts of gangs and drug cartels, governments should provide “intervention models for young people who live in violent situations,” Castillo Berthier said. “Efforts to reduce factors that lead to inequality, social injustice and corruption must be doubled, for that is where it all starts. We must protect our youth against organized crime.”

The Northern Triangle

In the area known as the “Northern Triangle,” which includes parts of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, the Mara Salvatrucha gang recruits juveniles to sell drugs and commit killings, kidnappings, and extortions. Young recruits are sometimes threatened with beatings or even death if they resist carrying out their orders. Loyal teenagers are rewarded with Mara Salvatrucha tattoos.
In Brazil, the organized crime groups First Capital Command (PCC) and the Comando Vermelho recruit some children as young as seven years old, according to Voz al Mundo. Brazilian police estimate that about 5,000 children between the ages of 7 and 15 work for the gangs.
IT'S SAD THAT THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE REGION SPENDS SO MUCH ON WEAPONS AND OPERATIONS AGAINST CRIME, BUT NEGLECTS THE FUNDAMENTAL ISSUES! HIGHER SOCIAL INVESTMENT, STRONGER SUPPORT TO SPORTS AND CHURCH! Interesting article. I'm under the impression that in Latin America none of the governments are properly directing efforts to control violence. The good and bad manners (including violence) are learned at home. Therefore, efforts should be made mainly towards educating the parents, particularly women since they are the ones with the biggest influence on children during the first three to fours years, when the foundation of the individual'personality is being laid. Women should learn about child behavior and how to stimulate and teach them proper manners. Obviously, this isn't easy and the process is slow. In Europe they started this process, of working with the mothers, about a hundred years ago. The first results were seen fifteen to twenty years later. It's almost impossible to reform kids that are already on the streets. I'd like to be more optimistic about it but experience shows that after starting puberty there's no turning back... My suggestion for our governors: Seek expert advise on behavior and develop effective programs. What I see in my country, Honduras, is that these programs to "control violence" are being handled by political activists, generally as a reward or payment for their efforts in political campaigns. The results are in full view: San Pedro Sula has been qualified as the most violent city of the planet and violence keeps increasing. May God helps us all! In my country there are many functional illiterate people, meaning they read but don't interpret, they have little preparation. These people prioritize drinking over feeding, and therefore they don't educate their children. That's why education needs to be for the family, in order to be beneficial for children. Because how is a person with no education going to educate. The is the moment when a good educative campaign and good action must be carried out, so that we don't end up at the level of violence that is unfortunately mentioned in this article. Politicians should be less ambitious and respect the law, while the rich should contribute to improving the situation of those unprotected through foundations, on the contrary marginalization will keep growing in our country. IT IS SAD THAT THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENTS SPEND SO MUCH ON WEAPONS AND OPERATIVES AGAINST DELINQUENCY AND LEAVE THE HEART OF THE PROBLEM OUT! MORE SOCIAL INVESTMENT, MORE SUPPORT TO SPORTS AND THE CHURCH! it's good In the current world we live in, we must first entrust our families to the Creator, pray everyday for our lives and put into practice the good manners that our grandparents used to have.
Respect, education, loyalty, honest work, fear of God, going to church and teaching our children about the common good for the proper development of our planet Earth. How strange that most people with an opinion place themselves outside of the government, since we are all part of the government of a country, not just the elected authorities.

If they sell drugs in my neighborhood, I pretend not to see it.
If children are recruited you either fear or respect them.

So what's the commitment of the opinionated ones to their country. One has to know in order to believe; that's life, a box of surprises. In the area known as "Northern Triangle" which includes regions from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, the Mara Salvatrucha gang is recruiting minors to sell drugs, commit murder, kidnappings and extortion. The young recruits are sometimes threatened with a beating or even death if they refuse to obey orders. The loyal teenagers are rewarded with tattoos of Mara Salvatrucha. it's very good a so-so article THIS COMMENT IS GOOD Crime has to come to an end, one way or the other. Governments should work on efficient public policies and provide the young with a place in society, since poverty and ignorance makes them easy prey of these criminals. Well, as a Chavist I think that this is due to the lack of security in those Latin countries, because many military men in the military service know that their superiors, such as colonels and captains, have guerrilla groups in other areas and allow everything. All the irregularities that can be done on a daily basis are an unlimited salary to them; they recruit outside of the law to perform their misdoings, they should be denounced for corrupting underage kids at the district attorney's office, so that a military court can deal with it and they can feel the full weight of the law. Those children are innocent of all the things they do because once they are inside they are terrorized and afraid of being killed, themselves and their families, if they try to escape. The poor kids are afraid of having their families killed, they are kept drugged for two or three days and then they are sent to shower to refresh their memory. Afterwards they are taken to a classroom to learn and are told things that they've never heard before when they lived at home. Then they are taken to another place to practice with all kinds of firearms, and they become so excited with all the nice things they are offered, and they believe it. Then the kidnappers send them to kill someone, they explain everything one last time and then take them to the site where they will commit murder. They become assassins, and when that group has already killed several times, the people in charge send them to kill along with other hit men that are trained by them and so on, that's why. It would be better to have a mandatory but fun sports program for children, so they can spend their free time feeding their minds through different kinds of sports. Very good story on the warnings regarding teenage labor, they are society's greatest treasure, the future of a country.
Congratulations Things happen at first because of minor crimes and for following a bad example to obtain easy money. That's when kids follow only their elders, who have been or are criminals with track record, and they know from these elders which paths to take. So first of all, kids should be separated through information, education, and moral values so that they learn how to tell a criminal from an upright person. I think that it would be best of they legalize it - whoever wants to get high can get high, and grow weed in the house... governments don't really care about it... This reality is sad. That's why the first thing we have to do is guide the ninis towards God in order to humanize them and encourage solidarity and education in them. And teach them a trade that would allow them to live in dignity. Something has to be done to help and avoid the exploitation of minors. They are the future of all nations. Just kill all the enforcers and don't sell yourselves for a couple of million dollars offered by the narc-traffickers from all nations. Don't become corrupt. WELL, IT'S VERY ACTUALLY DIFFICULT TO OBSERVE THIS REALITY. BUT UNFORTUNATELY, AS WE CAN SEE, IT'S DUE TO THE LACK OF ATTENTION FROM PARENTS TO THEIR CHILDREN, WHICH IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST PROBLEMS. UNFORTUNATELY, WE ARE NOT PART OF THE SOLUTION BUT OF THE PROBLEM BY NOT DOING ANYTHING FOR THEM. ALSO, THERE ARE PARENTS THAT REGARDLESS OF HOW MUCH THEIR CHILDREN TELL THEM THEY HAVE PROBLEMS, TAKE IT AS SOMETHING UNIMPORTANT OR AS WE SAY, THEY ARE CHILDREN, WHAT CAN BR WRONG WITH THEM...
WELL, THIS IS REALLY ABOUT BECOMING AWARE. I agree with the opinions of Maidan and Espinoza. Despite everything, the foundation of the current society continues to be the family and its immediate environment. That is where people become good or bad, hard-working or lazy, entrepreneurs or opportunists. Where qualities based on values are developed. It has nothing to do with being rich or poor, which is a limitation but not an insurmountable impediment. It has to do with principles, ethics, human ideals, vision of the future, desire to excel, desire to contribute and to be the architect of one's own destiny. These value will allow individuals to defends themselves against the negative and harmful factors that exist in society: the TV for example, with the bland programming, lack of content, filled with violence both in language and in acts; the showbiz with the poor examples of our celebrities with their virtual lives, unattainable for most people, with their excesses and scandals; the reach of the propaganda designed to create a demand for things that are sometimes unnecessary, that contaminate - the mind and the environment - more than actually contribute to the human race. The role of the State is to create opportunities, but it is the responsibility of the individual to seek them (well, anyways, there were first pioneers that created the States, by drafting it from the beginning of the development of human society), so the role of each person, and of all of us as a family core, is to preserve that social well-being by creating outstanding individuals. This happens because of lack of opportunity, both to study and work. It's true Very interesting, the truth is that it's easy to figure out the main objective of that group of great economical power...to create more and more poverty in the world so they can continue ruling it...and that's how it's always been...the difference is that lately this situation has gotten worse...will there ever be a time with only one economic order in the world?....when that happens, all these problems will be over and we will live in a society that is more fair, more human and more supportive. Of course governments don't want to put an end to this problem, they have interests in those countries and do not talk about human rights; but in Venezuela our commander Chavez Frias helped the poor overcome their misery, he gave them education and invested in health and they still labeled him as dictator. That's how things are. I'm ready to join the forces I think it's very good What are governments of the countries where mafia is located doing, or is it that the government is involved in these mafias? The so-called developed countries should research how to plant cocaine, hashish and poppy trees in those places. Central and South America wouldn't have so many problems and wouldn't harm our children. We see how the youth all around the world is decaying and lacks values. It seems as if they were lost. They don't see clear horizons, they are hopeless of a better life because of how the State embezzles through its governors, doesn't invest where needed and keeps most of the money in their own pockets while the people are suffering. I wish we became aware these elections, and not vote for people who are wolves disguised as sheep, who have always manipulated and lived off the state. The senior citizens should now start resting, they have already bled out this country enough. Leave something for the new generation. The worst thing about organized crime is when it operates with the current government's authorization. It's sad, infuriating, and it makes the blood boil seeing how the government applauds and celebrates these actions without realizing that they are undermining the very institution they represent. Today it's about those who think differently, but tomorrow they will kill each other, not being able to control all the aberrations. It's sad and painful, governments should conduct "aggressive" campaigns for the strengthening of family. Having structured families leads to a less vulnerable society, work creates better possibilities for having a stable family. What analyst Hector Castillo Berthier stated is a horrendous reality. In Venezuela, for instance, the socialist government purchased arms and handed them to the so-called Bolivarian militia who is in charge of protecting the Revolution; therefore, said militias recruited young men and trained them and this is how the famous collectives have formed. These collectives have become the nightmare of this country, there are assassinations, drug trafficking, extortion, theft, larceny, corruption and all kinds of felonies and the government is protecting this type of delinquents. Aside from this, there is the guerrilla and other Colombian irregular groups who are openly protected by government officials and politicians of the regime. Consequently, my comment is this: the Organization of American States, the United Nations and the NGOs should join forces and face these situations that affect us all and apply harsh punishments to all the protectors of organized crime in each country that suffers from these situations. It's sad and painful that this is happening, that there is no political and social will to solve this social problem that is affecting us all. It happens because those who have the power to solve it, do not want to do it. Certainly our governments in Latin America care very little or not at all for what happens or what could happen to today's youth. It's true that there are not many job options but that is because more time is spent socializing with other countries than seeing what's actually happening in them. There are so many NGOs that pretend to be looking for solutions for future established generations, but in reality most of them are only seeking the well-being of a few, and not even of young, but those in charge of the operation of these organizations, they only think about themselves. I know I'm being redundant here but it's a painful truth. It's good that they legalize it, so that the youth can have a good future. That would work if they took down all the big drug trafficking capos, ha ha ha This must change.. Isagel G., it is truly a struggle, especially in schools where boys and girls are studying and acquiring knowledge that will help them forge their future. However there is no one to encourage them to learn within their families ; Unfortunately we do very little about it and they can easily become a target for crime groups. Don't give statistics, suggest solutions to create and promote jobs with tax discounts for the employers, so that hired people feel motivated by these benefits. What we want from this government is peace, for everything to go back to how it was, to not have to wait in line anymore, and more jobs. While they fight over power, we the Venezuelans are the ones who suffer, be aware of it. Poor young people, everything should be done in order to help them. What do you think of Medellin, the corruption of the governor, his family and the EPM? People, until when are you gonna go on with the OAS and CELAG. They only serve economic and personal interests. See what's happening in Venezuela. There's only one way: "that the child be born and grow up with principles and values", and this is accomplished by investing in human development, starting with the family. If this continues to be overlooked, it won't be possible to manage the present situation, either with swords or with armies. Countries should think first and foremost about education, not about war. Young people need more support from the government, otherwise this problem will never end. The things people see, hear and say are unbelievable. Well, governments should work on promoting and making education accessible, and watch over homeless children and teenagers. This happens because of leaders who are only trying to get rich, and don't care about the poor or the lower class, as they usually call us. Global ALERT on inhuman practice by the future and current generations that lead children to a bottomless pit without hope of enjoying life and youth. If parents paid more attention to their children, many things could be avoided... This is very serious, why aren't politicians getting involved in making the world healthy by creating more jobs and providing education focused on moral and civic training? Learning how to study and work early on, instead of looking and asking for easy money would lead to better citizens and a better world. Teach them how to fish instead of giving them fried fish. And knowing all this, is the government doing anything, or are things just happening by themselves. That's why we are surrounded by crime. SOME NEWSPAPERS DO NOT PUBLISH THE REALITY IN LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN. TERRIBLE REALITY, but one that's been around for too many years due to the poverty, the ignorance and the ensuing necessities in those countries. How can we take care of our kids in this society, when the administration and even ourselves have forgotten that they exist? S.O.S. VENEZUELA. To the entire world, Venezuela needs help, please! This is a social issue, what kind of well-established families are those young people and children coming from, and where are the parents? It's a social problem, they are not coming from well-established families, where are the parents of those young people who need guidance? It's necessary to establish laws that crack down on the people who recruit and train children. Also, to establish agreements on the participation of schools, city halls, churches, sports leagues and other organizations in order to develop joint preventive actions. What is known about Venezuela and these groups, because lately there have been many unscrupulous young people, involved in different criminal activities, even committing paid murder; However such activities lead them to take part in other activities, such as bag carrier, drug distribution and small-time robbery, like cell phone and purse theft. Educate, educate, educate... that way there won't be any time left for IDLENESS I think the main problem is in the home of these children, their parents have the duty to teach them the right ways, give them good education, control who their friends are and where do they talk to them, check their homework and their school bags from time to time, and take note at the first sign of something strange. Everything else is up to the government, giving people information about the existence of these drug dealers and the use of children as mules, and protecting the most precious thing of a country and of the world: children, who are the future... That is the cost of opportunity, what I mean is the governors do not offer equal opportunities regarding the dignity of people and their human rights. I can't say that I like such a sad situation. It's interesting to hear this kind of news, to collaborate or improve the environment of this community. How horrible There is so much poverty in Latin America that young kids and teenagers are capable of killing, committing crimes and fighting for a cause that is unjust and unknown to them. The manipulation of mind and consciousness is so great, and all for just a few coins. It's just like when Judas sold our lord. This is actually a lack of values produced by the weakness of family ties and by the illusion produced by the media, of the wellness that money brings without considering the fundamental principals of the human being. It is truly sad to see where we are and where we are going. We have to pray a lot to God for the youth, so can he give plenty of blessings and protect them from the evil agents sent by Satan, so they can be reached by the admirable light of "Jesus Christ". Ask for the families, for all the governments and their rulers, so that God can provide them with humility and obedience of his word, norms and ten commandments and these can be kept and memorized in their hearts. May the blessing, peace, truth and justice of the real God be with all. "AMEN".- This happens due to so much irresponsibility from the parents to the children. Because they never taught any moral principles to their children. Your comment is completely wrong, my collegue. In Venezuela we have worked very hard to eliminate weaponry. The arms that are seized and brought in voluntarily are melt and then used for manufacturing rebars, used for building dwellings. The Bolivarian military forces don't carry guns. The groups that are currently active are those paid by the opposition. They are paramilitaries brought in especially to destabilize the legitimate Venezuelan government and to create anxiety and terror among the Venezuelan population. Please inform yourself first so you can comment objectively. It's a sad, painful and undeniable reality. May God protect our children. Governments should invest more in education, health and security as helping measures against the terrible affliction of the drugs. Until when so many deaths, we want peace. THE SOCIAL DECOMPOSITION IS VERY SERIOUS WHEN ONE THING IS SAID AND ANOTHER IS DONE. IT IS NOT POVERTY, I WAS BORN IN IT, IT'S THE VERBAL AND PHYSICAL VIOLENCE, THE CORRUPTION AND ABOVE ALL THE EDUCATION AND OPPORTUNITY FOR CHILDREN AND YOUNGSTERS THAT ARE TAUGHT TO HATE THOSE PEERS WHO THINK DIFFERENTLY. THERE IS NOTHING MORE IMPORTANT THAN RESPECT AND FREEDOM TO CHOOSE OUR DESTINY. WE ARE HUMANS OF THE WORLD. FANATICS AND RADICALS CAUSE A LOT OF HARM, JUST AS DRUG TRAFFICKING AND WEAPON TRADING...
LET'S WORK FOR A BETTER FUTURE. It would be very good to organize workshops to train those men and women who are willing to attack the root of this problem, originated right in the homes of the people. How much longer will these deaths go on. I hate this government. Values are first taught at home, that's what we should all do. Starting with parenting schools to properly educate or guide our children and not end up with those failures. As long as there is poverty, there will always be someone willing to die... Efficient information I think social processes transform everyday and this should be watched, keep the good things and dismiss the bad ones. Societies need to gain strength for change every day, they are like sleeping lions that can easily be forgotten if not properly guided. This is how it is, and it will go on the same way. WHY? Because those boys and girls grow up without having their needs met. WHY? Because of the irresponsibility of mothers who have children without fathers. THE BAD PEOPLE know where to look for hungry kids with all kinds of needs, including affection. WOMEN, DON'T have so many children. It's better to have 1 well-fed kid than 2 starving ones, without clothes, education or parents. Kids are for life. Be responsible. Enough with these people, how long will this go on? They have ruined us and are destroying the country that is ours, they will leave this place and we are the ones that stay here. Those who support this government will be sorry, you will see. This is a problem that concern us all because it starts at home, in a home where the mother and father work all day, who takes care and disciplines those children if they are alone all day? Another thing that has been lost is the fear of God, both at home and in school. Wrecked homes and the parent no longer helps with child support, and I'll stop counting now. For God's sake, respect and analyze how many murders caused by the opposition that you support may have been provoked by those assassins, who are mistreated youngsters willing to kill. Think and ask for help, you are disassociated and they are making you crazy, strong opposition is requested in Venezuela. It's embarrassing that even in the 21st century our children are still struggling, and the incompetent and corrupt governments looks the other way in this situation. I am no one to judge anybody but this situation affects everyone, because when you are a parent you feel for all the children in the world. And that's what politicians and rulers of countries should be considering. What have they done to change this situation? What is our planet turning into? Within 20 years we will be at the mercy of drugs and violence or better yet, we are already there and will continue to be. That's why they are saying that the end of times is near and it is our fault because of indifference towards other people's pain, which really is our own pain. We have forgotten to love others and to give without receiving because we are always thinking about material things. Our Lord Jesus came here and gave his life in exchange for nothing, he only asked for love, love and more love between us. I ask that if anyone reads these lines, try and change so this doesn't keep happening, and we stop living in fear. I for one, am already doing my part. We must protect the innocent, the children and youngsters. The adults have a great responsibility, LET'S ACT and each one of us contribute our grain of salt. VERY GOOD ARTICLE. The statistics on the employment of minors by delinquent groups of this poor and abandoned America cause fear and amazement in the reader. But, besides the records submitted by UNICEF, what other actions are known on the part of the United Nations and the state entities of the affected countries? It gives me chills to think about the immediate future - which does not go beyond the next 10 or 15 years in sight-, to determine the fate of our society. Due to the actions of today's children, who shall be the arrant felons of tomorrow? Maybe it isn't too late for our governments to pinch themselves and stop the leviathan that is getting closer? People say "God is to blame for all of this"...others say "the authorities aren't doing anything"... But what are the people doing to help solve this problem...? They are just spectators... We must care for our children at home, through the daily communication, the information they are hear everyday on the news. Let's start at home. Let's dedicate time to our children and we will see several changes at home, in the neighborhood, the district, the city, the county, the country and the world by giving them proper principles and values. Unfortunately death awaits them, you can't control it. The most important things are the homes, then the state, help them and have all nations start a crusade. But dammit, politicians don't learn and just oppress the people in order to stay in power. Just look at Venezuela implementing a communist regime that we will not accept no matter what. We shouldn't remain quiet, this kind of trafficking should be eliminated from the world. Publish what everyone comments, it's time for that man to stop meddling in the domestic issues of Venezuela. Fix your problems in Peru, which are plenty. It's a sad truth that afflicts us. I live in Venezuela and everyone knows about our misfortune.. a noble, kind and educated country has become one of the most dangerous ones in the WORLD....with vast riches that only a few benefit from....those are the causes because hunger is also VIOLENCE..!