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The effects of drug wars on children

Mexico's drug war as seen through the eyes of children Children's drawings depicting extreme violence and distrust of government forces reveal the impact of narco-culture.

  • The pictures also point to an awareness that cartels prey on minors;
  • The boy, however, has shown fear toward policemen although he continues to play with toy guns while acting out his favorite super heroes, she noted;
  • The investigation involved surveys and interviews, as well as drawing;
  • When you see them pass, you know something's going down.

Another shows a gang member hurling a grenade at a police officer. A third features a collection of Kalashnikov and Armalite assault rifles, the weapons of choice for Mexico's cartel hitmen. These are not photographs, but children's drawings depicting the harsh realities of Mexico's decade-long drug war.

Drug war may affect kids for the worse

They uncover the mental scars borne by a generation exposed to extreme violence, many of whom distrust government forces and admire narco-culture. Elementary school students produced the drawings as part of an investigation into the effects of the conflict on children in northern Jalisco, an impoverished area plagued by violent crime.

More than 500 children between the ages of eight and 13 participated in the study, which was led by Maria Teresa Prieto Quezada, an educational psychologist at the University of Guadalajara. The investigation involved surveys and interviews, as well as drawing. Most subjects portrayed themselves as victims or traumatised spectators of the drug war, a conflict that has claimed more than 170,000 lives since December 11, 2006 [PDF]when then-President Felipe Calderon deployed troops in an ill-fated attempt to stamp out organised crime.

On the other hand, you don't live as long… People want to come to your house and kill you. Meet the man cleaning up after Mexico's murders The investigation revealed the profound impact of narco-culture - a phenomenon that has impacted Mexican music, fashion, and language - on local children.

Many children could name personal heroes from the world of organised crime. Some had over 100 narcocorridos downloaded on their phones. While the internet has popularised narco-culture, the students' drawings and interviews revealed that much of what they see online is reflected in their daily lives.

In recent years, the remote municipalities of northern Jalisco have seen gun battles as opposing cartels battle for control of the region. When you see them pass, you know something's going down. Mexico's 'lost generation' of drug addicts No distinction between police and criminals A drawing competition to mark Mexican independence in neighbouring Michoacan state elicited similar results, with children interpreting the theme "The Mexico I live" as a prompt to portray their experiences with drug-related violence.

Of vast majority of the 3,500 elementary school children who participated in the contest depicted crime and injustice. Forty-five drawings were collected into a book that was published by the Michoacan state Human Rights Commission and a local university. While the security forces failed to restore the effects of drug wars on children, the crackdown hit civilians hard, with complaints of mistreatment to the National Human Rights Commission CNDH in Michoacan increasing more than 2,000 percent in five years [PDF].

One shows an angry police officer pointing his gun at a civilian. Another depicts a giant shoe labelled "justice" crushing young victims. The pictures also point to an awareness that cartels prey on minors. To drug traffickers, children represent a low-cost pool of recruits. Around 30,000 have been pushed into active participation in the ongoing conflict, according to Child Rights Network, an alliance of civic organisations in Mexico [PDF].

Experts believe this heightened exposure to violence carries into the classroom, where seven out of 10 primary and secondary school students have suffered bullying or harassment, according to the CNDH [PDF].

Sympathy for drug traffickers runs so high in this western coastal state that protesters took to the streets to demand the release of Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman after his arrest in 2014. His subsequent prison escape further cemented his folk hero status and when he was recaptured last January, police had to patrol the streets to prevent another embarrassing display of support. A study of graffiti at the Western University in Culiacan, the state capital, revealed that well-educated undergraduates are also immersed in narco-culture.

That's the culture here. Mexico's 'gangster rap' Jose de Jesus Chavez Martinez, a the effects of drug wars on children in communication sciences at the university, conducted an analysis of 42 samples of classroom desk graffiti.

Mexico's drug war as seen through the eyes of children

Allusions to the drug trade featured prominently, with references to "buchonas" [cartel-affiliated girlfriends] and drawings of the expensive SUVs favoured by drug traffickers. One drawing depicts a dark vehicle and an AK-47 hovering in midair. In the foreground, a terrified soldier looks away, unable to face the menacing threat behind him.

Fault Lines - Mexico's hidden war 25: Local authorities have made attempts to combat narco-culture, including violence prevention programmes in schools and banning public performances of narcocorridos. She argued that citizens need to resist despair and actively speak out against the destructive influence of the drug trade.