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Police Bust Mexican Drug Gang For Recruiting Boys Via Video Games

The three victims, 14 and younger, were contacted while playing the online game Free Fire, and promised paid work.

Photo of two police members in Veracruz, Mexico

Municipal Police in Cordoba

OAXACA — Police in Mexico have intervened to rescue three minors, aged 11 to 14, from recruitment into a drug gang that had enticed them through online gaming.

A top Mexican police agency official Ricardo Mejía Berdeja, said the gang had contacted the youths in the south-central city of Oaxaca, chatting through a free-to-download game called Free Fire, which involves shooting at rivals with virtual firearms.


Calling himself "Rafael," another player of the same age, the suspected gang member offered one of the youths work "checking radio frequencies and watching out for police presence" in Monterrey, northern Mexico, reported national daily El Heraldo de México. The pay was unusually good — 8,000 pesos (almost $400) every two weeks — and the youth called two friends who also wanted to get in.

Criminals use gaming and social networks

The three boys were set to take the bait, but an anonymous Mexican intelligence agent following the exchange while also posing as youth playing Free Fire, ultimately led police to a safe house in Santa Lucía del Camino, outside Oaxaca. The three were held before their transfer to Monterrey. Authorities arrested a woman who was supposed to take them there.

Gangs recruit youth who like these game, firearms and adrenaline.

Mejía said "this is an important case for interweaving the virtual and real worlds," with criminals operating "through online games and social networks." The recruiter, he said, "pretends to be young, invites [youngsters] to private meetings early in the morning or when the parents are working, when there is no proper oversight."

He said recruiters were interested in youngsters they discerned as "interested in this type of game, in firearms and adrenaline, and gradually draw them in through communication."

screenshot of the fire fire online game

Screenshot of Free Fire

Emulator PC

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

A Russian Winter In Kyiv? Putin’s Bitter History Lessons From Hitler And Napoleon

It's worth remembering that Vladimir Putin was born in Leningrad, just a decade after the brutal Nazi siege. A reflection on the Kremlin's emerging war strategy from Ukrainian writer Anna Akage.

Russian soldiers during a military exercise in the Kostroma region of Russia

Anna Akage

-Analysis-

Russians and Ukrainians share an expression for when the weather turns harsh: "On top of all our misfortunes, there are also four seasons."

Winter no doubt is the harshest, and was the season Vladimir Putin chose for last February's invasion — though his plans to conquer Ukraine by springtime have long since come and gone.

This autumn has been marked by the Ukrainian military’s great advances on the battlefield, but also Putin's decision to target civilians in cities around the country, either with direct hits on apartment buildings, or with what may ultimately be more brutal in the long run: the destruction of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Yes, Vladimir Putin knows that winter is returning.

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