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Mexico: The kids aren't all right

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Mexico: The kids aren't all right

Report: More dying from violence than car crashes, thanks to drug cartels

  • Young people in Mexico protest drug violence in June.
    Pepe Rivera/FlickrYoung people in Mexico protest drug violence in June.

When people talk about gun violence, they always like to compare that figure to how many people die in car crashes, because it shows that gun violence isn't so bad. 

Even in the trigger-happy, cold-dead-hands U.S., young people from age 15-24 are still more likely to die in an accident than from homicide.

But not in Mexico. According to the Mexico City daily El Universal, more young people are killed in violence than they are in car crashes. The report: 

Government statistics reviewed by the newspaper show that in 2008 and 2009, the second and third complete years of Mexico's drug war, violent deaths of people between 15 and 29 shot up about 150%. The figures rose almost equally across various narrower age brackets within that group.

Half of those killed died in the states bordering the U.S., where drug violence is some of the worst.

The cartels also have drawn in young people. The report noted that scarce opportunities and poor education lure some to participate in organized crime. The paper estimated that about 23,0000 young people had been recruited to work for the cartels since 2006. 

Sometimes, as GlobalPost has reported, young people will be paid just to stand on a street corner and act as a lookout, dialing a cellphone number if they see a certain person or vehicle. The youths don't know what they're getting into, but the money is good enough not to ask questions.

This latest news comes as the government has sought to downplay the problem of violence in Mexico. The drug war has cut into tourism, a major industry, and the government has blamed journalists for overreporting violence. 

But in many ways, violence has worsened since President Felipe Calderón declared war on the cartels in 2006. As drug gangs battle for territory and fight to keep their drug-supply chains running through to the U.S., civilians are now getting caught in the crossfire. Reports of mass graves, and the recent attack on a casino in Monterrey that left 52 people dead — none of whom were openly linked to the cartels — have instilled a new kind of fear.

It's changing young people in other ways, too. According to a recent survey on cultural attitudes by the National Autonomous University of Mexico, kids 15-19 are most likely to approve torture and the death penalty for those suspected of working in the cartels, or even just killing them without a trial.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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