GUATEMALA CITY (ISH) – Guatemala’s gangs are using children as young as 6 to transport drugs and weapons, among other crimes, a senior official said in an interview published on Oct. 2.
Government data shows that gangs also sometimes tap children as young as 11 – and routinely recruit teenagers – to commit murder, Deputy Interior Minister Arkel Benítez told the Siglo21 newspaper.
Young people who commit a crime in these circumstances cannot be called assassins because “they do not offer the service to kill but are forced to do so,” Benítez said.
Gangs like Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18, Guatemala’s most violent crime groups, force minors to kill as initiation rituals to prove their loyalty, according to the Interior Ministry.
In Guatemala, there are between 8,000 and 10,000 gang members, according to the United Nations.