Children Caught Up in Mexican Violence

Children in a 2010 Juarez family development agency, from Reuters. Unpredictable violence in Mexico continues to jeopardize a peaceful childhood. The fighting between security forces and drug trafficking organizations continues to claim the lives of children and their parents, with the former often labelled “collateral damage.” But as reported last summer Mexican education and public safety officials stated their intention to roll out duck-and-cover trainings in the nation’s schools. The notice came hot on the heels of a spate of violence in Nayarit State, and its governor placed many schools in summer recess a week early. Now, come winter, Reuters reports that a similar fear for children’s safety has arrived in the Pacific coastal resort of Acapulco. State officials have instituted similar duck-and-cover techniques. This time, though, instructors are not just teaching techniques in classrooms. The public safety officers are also brandishing toy guns that replicate the sound of real guns and making students respond in simulated shootouts. While all this seems like a normal response to danger – after all, and as is well known, US children experiencedsuch trainings during the Cold War, one wonders if raising children’s personal anxiety is actually permissible under international human rights law. Mexico’s a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). While the first part of Article 19 of the CRC makes governments responsible for the protection of children from violence, the second part states that the government must roll out social – not individual or personal – programmes to ameliorate children’s welfare. 2. Such protective measures should, as appropriate, include effective procedures for the establishment of social programmes to provide necessary support for the child and for those who have the care of the child… Outside observers have not yet identified what the government is doing in communities such as Acapulco, Nayarit, or Ciudad Juárez to follow up after the violence has abated. And since Reuters reported a growing number of orphans from the violence not enrolled in social programs, it’s unclear if the Mexican government is actually attempting to ameliorate the plight of children or just ducking international and domestic obligations.