The child was not killed by mistake. Preliminary forensics indicate that the gunmen, unchallenged, pointed a pistol at Scarlett Ramirez and fired.
In Mexico’s brutal drug war, children are increasingly victims, innocents caught in the crossfire, shot dead alongside their parents — and intentionally targeted.
According to U.S. and Mexican experts, competing criminal groups appear to be killing children to terrorize the population or prove to rivals that their savagery is boundless, as they fight over local drug markets and billion-dollar trafficking routes to voracious consumers in the United States.
“It worries us very much, this growth in the attacks on little children. They use them as a vehicle to send a message,” said Juan Martin Perez, director of the Child Rights Network in Mexico. “Decapitations and hanging bodies from bridges send a message. Killing children is an extension of this trend.”
The children’s rights group estimates that 994 people younger than 18 were killed in drug-related violence between late 2006 and late 2010, based on media accounts, which are incomplete because newspapers are often too intimidated to report drug-related crimes.
Few of the crimes are solved. “What worries us is the impunity in all of these cases,” Perez said. “If there is impunity, this use of children to send messages will grow.”
Government figures include all homicides of people younger than 17, capturing victims whose murders might not have been related to drugs or organized crime. In 2009, the last year for which there is data, 1,180 children were killed, half in shootings.
Recent, sensational killings of children — shot in a car seat, dumped in a field with a bullet in the head, killed as their grandmothers cradled them — have shocked Mexicans and shaken their faith that family is sacred, even to the criminal gangs.
“Before, they went after their enemy. Now, they go after every member of the family, indiscriminately,” said Martin Garcia Aviles, a federal congressman from the Party of the Democratic Revolution from the state of Michoacan.
A Chihuahua state police commander was attacked as she carried her 5-year-old daughter to school two weeks ago. Both died of multiple gunshot wounds.
In February, assassins went hunting for a Ciudad Juarez man, but the intended target wasn’t home, so they killed his three daughters instead, ages 12, 14 and 15.
In March, a young woman was bound and gagged, shot and left in a car in Acapulco. Her 4-year-old daughter lay slumped beside her, killed with a single bullet to her chest. She was the fifth child killed in drug violence in the resort city in one bloody week.