Friday, December 1, 2023

Another student rescued from cartel recruitment through online video game

Another young person has been rescued from a cartel’s most recent recruitment strategy: befriending children and adolescents through online video games, then luring them away from home based on their relationship with the kidnapper or with promises of work.

This time, the victim was a young woman from the municipality of Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán in the Oaxaca city urban area. Like previous targets, her kidnapper befriended her through Free Fire, a popular online-only shooter video game.

The man contacted her through the game and gained her trust over an extended period, even visiting her in Oaxaca. He convinced her to meet him in México state, where he took her to Naucalpan, a municipality just outside Mexico City. From there, he planned to take her north, where she would join a criminal group.

An investigation coordinated by the attorney generals’ offices of Oaxaca (FGEO) and México state (FGJEM) foiled the plan and located her within 24 hours.

Her family reported her missing on Monday after she claimed to be going out with friends but did not return home. Initial investigations quickly uncovered the connection she had formed online with her kidnapper, the FGEO said in a statement.

In coordination with México state law enforcement, the FGEO located the woman on Tuesday afternoon and turned her over to officials from her home state who continued investigating the incident while coordinating her return to her family.

It is the third known case of criminal groups recruiting young people through digital platforms. Two weeks ago, a 12-year-old boy from Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca, was kidnapped by a presumed cartel recruiter he met online. The other incident involved a group of boys kidnapped from Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca. All the children were found and returned home safely.

All three cases involved the Free Fire video game. The federal government has also warned parents to beware of recruitment efforts through other violent online video games, including Grand Theft Auto V, Gears of War and Call of Duty.

With reports from Milenio and El Universal

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