Young men make up a quarter of homicide victims in Rosario, according to a new report, driving home the fact that those under 21 are far more likely to join local gangs, work in drug trafficking and be at risk of criminal violence.
Of the 1,737 murders reported between 2013 and early 2021 in Argentina's central department of Rosario, 432 of them involved young men of under 21 years old, according to a report by the newspaper La Capital. And around ten percent of homicide victims were boys under 18, accounting for 166 deaths.
A separate report by the state government of Santa Fe, to which Rosario belongs, also stated that 47 percent of homicides in the department are linked to organized crime and disproportionately affect men, who are being killed for their involvement in criminal economies and groups. Meanwhile, homicides involving women – which are ten times lower – are associated with gender-based violence.
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Rosario is one of Argentina's most violent areas and is strategically located for trafficking drugs from Bolivia and Paraguay. It has been under the criminal rule of the Los Monos gang for more than a decade but has seen the group clash with rivals contesting their dominance.
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Since 2004, Los Monos have taken advantage of the socio-economic vulnerability within Rosario's marginalized neighborhoods, to establish de facto authority and recruit young people known as soldaditos (little soldiers) who sell cocaine and marijuana in small quantities.
In a conversation with InSight Crime, journalist and subject matter expert Gérman de los Santos asserted that these soldiers are the lowest rank within the organization and are coordinated by local bosses in charge of extortion and drug trafficking in the surrounding neighborhoods. If the young men do not fulfill their drug sales quotas or other tasks assigned by their superiors, they are killed. "This is why there are so many murders in Rosario, those who do not comply are killed,” explained the journalist.
SEE ALSO: Los Monos Profile
While young men and boys are those most commonly affected by violence in Latin America, there has been a recent slew of reports concerning child recruitment into criminal groups.
InSight Crime recently looked at how child recruitment in Colombia had taken place, examining how families were being paid to allow their children to join, how younger siblings were being press-ganged by criminal groups if their older brothers were killed and how schools are trying to prevent their students from being recruited.
And in Brazil, a police operation in Rio de Janeiro's Jacarezinho favela in early May, which left 28 dead, allegedly took place because drug trafficking gang, the Red Command (Comando Vermelho - CV), had been recruiting minors.