A hitman for a major Mexican drug cartel was sentenced to three years in prison yesterday for offenses including murder, kidnapping, and drug trafficking. But this assassin is only 14 years old, and the brutality of his crimes -- including beheadings -- have shocked the world amidst the continuing carnage near the US-Mexico border.
Edgar Jimenez, nicknamed "El Ponchis," (many have said it means "cloak," but really it is "One who likes techno music") is a U.S. Citizen, born in San Diego. He claims that at age 11 he was kidnapped and soon thereafter became a hitman for the South Pacific Cartel, a notorious drug smuggling syndicate that Mexican police say is responsible for hundreds of murders this year alone.
Jimenez's sentence is the maximum he can receive, as he is under 16 years of age. Mexico has no system for trying juveniles as adults. The murder charges refer to the killing of 4 people whose mutilated bodies were found hanging from a bridge.
Jimenez claims he was forced, under threat of death, to carry out heinous acts of torture and murder. At the time of his arrest, Reforma Newspaper quoted Ponchis saying "When I was 11, they picked me up. They said they would kill me ... I've killed four people, decapitated them. I felt bad doing it. They made me. They said if I didn't do it, they would kill me." Time Magazine, however, paints a somewhat darker picture of the youth- one that points to Jimenez more as a brainwashed, stone-cold killer than a frightened child. Time reported on the damning evidence against Jimenez last December, writing that:
"Apart from his confession, Jimenez also posed in incriminating videos, which he had saved on his cell phone. In one, he squats in front of a group of gunmen wearing a baseball cap and holding a Kalashnikov rifle — looking like the gang mascot. In another, he stands by a prisoner who is hung up like a piece of meat with his shirt off and tape over his mouth. Jimenez hits him with a stick. Rumors have circulated that there are videos of El Ponchis chopping off heads, but no one seems to have seen them or have them."
The use of underage assassins appears to be on the rise in Mexico, as they grow up in the midst of a bloody narco-insurgency. Juárez prison's director of inmates, Oswaldo Hogaz, told Time magazine that "These kids are cheap, bloodthirsty, and they know the government can't punish them much," and warned that their use by cartels would likely increase as violence in Mexico continues to spiral out of control.
Jimenez and his sister were arrested by the Mexican Army last December at an airport on the way to Tijuana, where they planned to cross into the U.S. Jimenez's sister is allegedly part of a group of girls called Las Chabelas, who dump bodies in plain sight to intimidate the population in and around Cuernavaca, which is a short drive from Mexico City.