Young boys dressed up as drug cartel members and the shouting of “candy or kidnapping” by children while trick-or-treating were among examples of a “narco-Halloween” in northern Mexico last week.
In Mazatlán, Sinaloa, one young boy who was dressed as a sicario, or hitman, caught the attention of shoppers as he walked through a city mall on October 31.
Wearing ripped blue jeans, a black shirt with the top buttons undone and a gold chain and sporting a drawn-on mustache, there could be no mistaking that his costume was inspired by Mexico’s notorious gangsters.
In case there was any doubt, the boy had a toy gun in his jeans and – perhaps most shockingly – was dragging a black plastic bag of the kind commonly used by cartels to dispose of the bodies of their victims.
Photos and video footage of the boy went viral on social media and triggered criticism of his mother, who accompanied him through the Mazatlán mall.
“. . . That mother should have her child taken away from her . . .” one Twitter user said.
Images of another young boy dressed as Ovidio Guzmán López, a suspected Sinaloa Cartel leader and son of former drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, also went viral on social media.
The young boy – perhaps two years old – was dressed in clothes that mimicked those worn by the 28-year-old suspected narco when he was detained in Culiacán, Sinaloa, on October 17 before being released after the operation to capture him triggered a wave of cartel attacks.
His pale shirt, black pants, cap and a religious pendant hanging around his neck ensured that he was a near dead ringer of Guzmán López. He was even given a stubbly beard and mustache to help him look the part.
The costume also triggered condemnation on social media.
“We’re losing this country. Who could think of dressing up their child as Ovidio?” said Twitter user Mario Castillo. “It’s not at all funny. On all fronts, day by day, we’re consolidating ourselves as a banana republic.”
In Reynosa, a notoriously dangerous border city in Tamaulipas, another Twitter user said she heard children shouting “dulce o levantón” (literally candy or kidnapping) when trick-or-treating.
Beyond social media criticism, the narco-inspired costumes and behavior were also denounced by the head of the Sinaloa child protection agency.
Margarita Urias Burgos said that dressing up children in such attire could affect them for the rest of their lives because the photos will remain on the internet indefinitely.
She was critical of people who shared the images in order to criticize the children’s parents, contending that they only contributed to their wider dissemination.
Urias added that authorities are not seeking to impose sanctions on parents who dressed their children up in inappropriate costumes but rather raise awareness about the damage they can cause to young people’s lives.