Two 17-year-old high school boys have been charged with killing a classmate in Brownsville, TX, and authorities including the FBI are investigating whether the murder is tied to the Mexican drug cartels as reported by Laura B. Martinez for The Brownsville Herald.
While the actual facts in the Brownsville case remain to be flushed out, the Mexican cartels otherwise increasingly have been recruiting U.S. juvies to carry out their dirty work.
Police in Laredo, TX report that Los Zetas is signing up U.S. teenagers as young as thirteen to carry out enforcement hits on the north side of the border. Two such teens -- Rosalio Reta and Gabriel Cardona -- now are serving lengthy prison sentences for their roles in several murders, and Reta admitted that he made his first kill at 13: "I thought I was Superman. I loved doing it, killing that first person."
The drug cartels long have used children as assassins on the south side of the border as reported by John Burnett for NPR:
Mexican drug cartels recruit children under 18 for the same reasons that armed forces conscript boy soldiers in Sierra Leone and Somalia — their immaturity produces fearlessness. And for a young boy at the margin of society, cartel membership brings instant respect.
Indeed, as many as 30,000 children in Mexico have been "lured into acting as mules, dealers, lookouts and assassins," and 1,300 of them have been killed as rival cartels fight for control over local turf and smuggling routes into the United States as reported by Rani Robelus for PBS.
Last July Edgar Jimenez Lugo a/k/a "El Ponchis" or the Cloak, an American-born 15-year-old, was convicted of beheading four people on behalf of the South Pacific Cartel.
Of course, it all doesn't sound much different than the streets of America where the gangbangers pluck kids out of middle school to do their dirty work.