Five children in Mexico were rescued Saturday after a Mexican drug cartel recruited them through the survival shooter game "Free Fire."

According to Mexico News Daily, the kids, aged 12 to 15, were contacted via a WhatsApp group related to the Free Fire, and cartel members offered them lucrative work because of their evident interest in guns.

The recruiters told the children, playing the Free Fire, that they would work for the Northeast Cartel in Tamaulipas. During the meetups at Tlacolula de Matamoros in Oaxaca state, the kids were forced into a vehicle as the Mexican drug cartel members kidnapped them.

Tlacolula de Matamoros is about 30 kilometers from Oaxaca city, also in Oaxaca state. After the youths disappeared, their parents filed complaints with the state Attorney General's Office and shared the kids' photos on social media as they appealed for help.

One of the boys left a letter to his parents telling them not to worry as he had gone to work at Monterrey city in Nuevo Leon state. The boy also said that he would send lots of money to them.

Security officials tracked the kids' locations through their cellphones, which led them to a house on the east side of the city.

Security personnel had been told that a children's party was going on inside the house when they arrived at the property. But when they entered the house, they discovered that the youths were being held hostage and that their abductors planned to take them to Oaxaca.

Five youths have already been reunited with their families, while one woman was arrested.

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Mexican Drug Cartels Use TikTok to Recruit Young People

Mexican drug cartels have used social media ever since to shock and intimidate their enemies. Howard Campbell, anthropologist and drug expert at the University of Texas at El Paso, said it has been proven to be an effective strategy, Courier-Journal reported.

Campbell added that the use of TikTok is the latest addition to this strategy. But recently, it has shifted its purpose. 

David Saucedo, a Mexico City-based security analyst, said TikTok is now being used to promote a lifestyle and generate a picture of "luxury and glamour" to show the benefits of joining the cartels.

Saucedo noted that these TikTok videos, with images of parties, endless cash, military-grade weapons, and exotic pets like tiger cubs, are being promoted to entice young men who might be interested in joining the cartel. 

A search on hashtag #CartelTikTok in social media brings up thousands of videos, most of them promoting a "cartel culture."

According to a UNICEF survey, Mexican drug cartels do practice forced recruitment. The survey noted that cartel recruitment drives families to flee their homes.

The Child Rights Network in Mexico reported that criminal organizations have already recruited about 35,000 children and adolescents.

Derek Maltz, a former agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Agency's Special Operations Division, said since social media like TikTok is "very attractive" and utilized by younger people, it became 100 percent "a recruitment tool."

Northeast Cartel

According to El Universal, former members of the Los Zetas Cartel created the Northeast Cartel. The organization was reportedly known to be behind the attack at Villa Union in the northern state of Coahuila in May 2019.

It was considered to be one of the bloodiest shootings of the year in Villa Union. It has claimed the lives of 17 criminals, two civilians, and four police officers.

The Northeast Cartel, also known as the Cartel del Noreste, was founded in 2014 by Juan Gerardo Chavez Trevino, the nephew of Los Zetas leader Miguel Trevino Morales.

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This article is owned by Latin Post.

Written by: Mary Webber

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