Young Assassins

El Ponchis, the 14-year-old hit man (courtesy of

I have written numerous posts about the violence in Mexico—most of it related to drug cartels and involving things like murder, extortion, rape and even dismemberment—but very little news from that troubled country surprises me these days.

Unfortunately, this is some of the news I find seriously disturbing.

In 2011, Mexican authorities arrested a 14-year-old boy known as “El Ponchis” (“The Cloak”) who was subsequently sentenced to three years in prison for murder. As it turned out, El Ponchis was an assassin for organized crime and confessed to killing a number of people. He even told an interrogator later that he beheaded four people.

Beheaded them! A 14-year-old!

As shocking as this story was to me when I first heard it, I immediately understand why it happened. Faced with death around every corner—again perpetrated by drug cartels that use violence to instill fear and seize control—children and teenagers often drop out of school to start a life of crime, which I’m sure many see as their only chance for survival. They sell drugs, perform low-level tasks and, in the case of kids like El Ponchis, murder people. And I’m sure they’re paid next-to-nothing for their efforts.

For the time being, though, their families are safe. Or they seem safe, which is closer to the truth.

I still can’t understand what might motivate a 14-year-old to behead people. It’s possible he was simply following orders and would have been beheaded himself if he didn’t do it. Or maybe all the killing finally desensitized him enough to make such an act bearable. It’s even possible that he came to enjoy it. You just never know. It is upsetting to think about no matter how you slice it.

REUTERS/Tomas Bravo

Another tragedy south of the border (courtesy of Reuters/Tomas Bravo)

The latest “El Ponchis” is 13-year-old Jose Armando Moreno Leos, a young assassin for a Mexican drug cartel who was arrested three weeks ago and confessed to murdering more than ten people. His specialty: high-caliber weapons.

Following his arrest in February, Leos was released since Mexican law prohibits the incarceration of anyone under the age of 14—too bad El Ponchis wasn’t a little younger, huh? On February 20th, he missed a court date and this past Thursday, we learned why.

Leos and the bodies of five other people—four women and one man—were discovered by the side of a Mexican highway. They had all been shot “execution style” with—ironically enough—high-caliber weapons.

Is it possible that Leos was the shooter, but then had his bosses turn on him? I certainly wouldn’t put it past them.

To me, what makes stories like these so tragic is the obvious: these were kids. They should have been playing, studying at school, attending birthday parties or dances, hanging out with friends or otherwise enjoying their youth. Instead, they’re peddling drugs, running numbers, killing people and hacking off body parts.

There’s something seriously wrong with this picture.

Posted on March 4, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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