Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Losing the Youth

The Washington Post wonders if the children of Mexico are going to turn into a los generation:
The number of minors swept up in Mexico's drug wars -- as killers and victims -- is soaring, with U.S. and Mexican officials warning that a toxic culture of fast money, drug abuse and murder is creating a "lost generation."

Although the exploitation of children by criminals is timeless, authorities say the cartels are responding to new realities here. They have stepped up recruiting to replace tens of thousands of members who have been killed or arrested during President Felipe Calderón's U.S.-backed war against the traffickers.

It's easy to overstate the impact of the wave of violence; Mexico remains safer than many Latin American nations, and you'd think that the nation's children would have a long way to go before they sink into the existential crises of the original lost generation. Plus, the coming economic recovery should help the areas reliant on exports. Nonetheless, Juárez seems a case apart. First of all, it's just far more violent than the other recent hot spots in drug violence. Furthermore, the upheaval in Juárez seems to have ripped up the social fabric more than in other towns. I remember reading in Proceso that on the town's massive West Side, home to more than 40 percent of the town's 1.5 million residents, only three high schools operate. This article tells us that one third of the town's teenagers neither work nor attend school. Five years ago, Juárez had a reputation as one of the safer of the big border towns, so none of this is permanent. But it is worrying.

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