MEXICO CITY: Mexican drug cartels are forcing indigenous children and teens to join their ranks, torturing or killing those who refuse, the United Nations warned Friday.
The UN's special rapporteur on indigenous rights, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, said she is "particularly worried" about violence against minors after speaking with indigenous communities around Mexico during a 10-day tour.
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"In areas affected by organized crime and the production and trafficking of drugs, the only choice left to young people is to join these groups or be tortured, disappeared or killed," she told a press conference at the end of her visit. "I have been presented with numerous cases of serious violations."
She said 'many' young indigenous people have disappeared, though she did not have a specific figure. Tauli-Corpuz, a Philippine national, visited the northern state of Chihuahua and the southern states of Guerrero and Chiapas, meeting with members of 23 ethnic groups from 18 different regions.
Mexico's drug war has unleashed a wave of violence on the country, and powerful drug cartels are the de facto law of the land in the rural areas they control. Since the government sent the military to fight the multibillion-dollar narcotics trade in 2006, more than 180,000 people have been killed, though the statistics do not indicate how many of the deaths were linked to organized crime.
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More than 30,000 people are missing in the country.
Tauli-Corpuz said criminal groups and in some cases the military and the authorities had also allegedly forced some indigenous communities off their land with massacres, murders, kidnappings, rape and torture - often to clear the way for logging or mining projects. Around 6.5 per cent of Mexico's 125 million people are indigenous. Most - 61.9 per cent - live in poverty or extreme poverty, according to Tauli-Corpuz.