Between 2006 and 2010, nearly 1,000 of the victims murdered by drug cartels were under the age of 18. Recently, many of these child victims have been toddlers and infants.
One infant was shot and killed while strapped into a car seat, while another was murdered while his grandmother cradled him in her arms.
In Chihuahua, a state police commander and her 5-year-old daughter were walking to school when both were shot dead by cartel gunmen.
In another case, three young girls between the ages of 12 and 15 were executed in their home in Ciudad Juarez when assassins showed up at their home to kill their father. When they realized he was not home, they killed his three young daughters instead.
Another savage murder involved a 4-year-old girl found dead with a bullet to the chest, slumped over the body of her murdered, bound, and gagged mother.
In these cases, it appears that the children were not victims of circumstance, but were actually targeted by the assassins. A message is being sent: no one is safe, no one will be spared from the violence. The murder of a rival or a law enforcement official is no longer enough; they now will kill children to reinforce fear.
Along with the recent discovery of several mass graves containing dozens of victims, the Mexican people are interpreting the latest developments as undeniable signs that the drug war is no longer only claiming victims from the drug trade and law enforcement: it is now taking the lives of the innocent and uninvolved.
The Mexican public appears to have reached a breaking point: they are no longer willing to accept the increasing violence and the escalation in brutality. On April 6, thousands of Mexican citizens took to the streets in several cities to protest the unrelenting crime and the Mexican government’s apparent inability to protect them from drug cartel violence. There have been almost 40,000 drug related murders since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006, and the Mexican people have lost patience and confidence in their president’s handling of the bloody crime wave. The protesters message: they can no longer tolerate living in a state of constant fear.
The protest movement is splintered, however, with some wanting the government to crack down harder on the cartels, with others supporting the legalization of narcotics as the answer.