THE Mexican Army is hunting a 12-year-old assassin who is allegedly employed by a drug cartel to torture and murder its enemies.
Known simply as El Ponchis – which means “The Cloak” – the young boy has been accused of helping wage a turf war in the central Morelos state.
Reports said he was paid $US3000 per murder and that he tortured his victims before killing them. He often cuts his victim’s throat, leaving the head attached by just a thread.
Videos of El Ponchis attacking one enemy with a stick and cutting the throat of another have appeared online, as have photos of him posing with various weapons and standing by a dead body.
The boy allegedly works for the little-known South Pacific cartel, which has allied itself with the brutal Los Zetas – former government paramilitaries who have gone rogue – to battle the major La Familia cartel for control of southwest Mexico.
Based just outside the city of Cuernavaca, El Ponchis was said to work with a group of girls, including his sisters, who are referred to as Las Chavelas and are often responsible for disposing of the bodies.
The gang was reportedly led by a man named Julio Jesus Radilla or Padilla and was mainly made up of young people aged 12 to 23, who have posed for pictures with weapons and drugs online.
El Ponchis is known as the youngest member – and reputedly the most bloodthirsty.
Pedro Luis Benitez, attorney general of Morelos state, told a local radio station that young people were particularly easy to influence, with gang bosses making murder seem like a game to them.
“They’re persuaded to carry out terrible acts, they don’t realize what they are doing,” he said.
There has been a significant jump in the number of young people working for drug cartels this year, according to Mexican authorities.