Drug cartels recruit youth through video games, Mexican authorities warn

MEXICO CITY (AP) – Drug cartels in Mexico are recruiting young people through contacts made through multiplayer online video games, officials said on Wednesday.

Ricardo Mejía, Mexico’s assistant secretary for public security, said an apparent cartel recruiter had previously purchased bus tickets for three boys aged 11 to 14.

He said the boys met the recruiter on the “Free Fire” online gaming platform, also known as “Garena Free Fire”. The recruiter promised the boys $ 200 a week to work in northern Mexico as drug cartel lookouts.

The boys were found before they could board the bus in the southern state of Oaxaca. Mejia said other cartels have worked the same way by contacting players through online games and discussions on gaming platforms, including “Call of Duty”, “Gears of War” and “Grand Theft. Auto V “.

While there have been documented cases of social media recruiting attempts in the past, officials said violence-infused online gaming platforms provide recruiters with a targeted pool of young people: mostly men, women and girls. young, fascinated by guns and somewhat numb to killing, at least on a virtual level.

The first boy was contacted by the alleged recruiter in August, and later told two of his friends, who also accepted the offer. In a message to the boys, the recruiter said they would love the job, “since you love guns and will earn a lot of money.”

A woman who was detained bought them tickets to the city of Monterrey in the north of the country under false names.

Mejia did not name the cartel involved, but said a similar case occurred in September with an attempt to recruit online by the Cartel del Noreste, a holdover from the former Zetas cartel.

Recruiters apparently have enough technological sophistication to bypass security algorithms on popular consoles.

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