Mexican drug cartels luring more women

JUAREZ, Mexico

At the toughest drug prison in Mexico, down stairwells, through long corridors behind numerous gates, and past dozens of heavily armed guards, we finally find our prisoner -- an infant who's barely 11 months old.

"This is your baby?" we asked inmate Maria Guadelupe.

"Yeah. She's here with me since she was born," she said.

"She was born here?" we asked.

"Yeah, in the prison."

The baby is one of dozens of children born here or who live in the prison.

There are nearly 3,000 inmates in this Juarez prison. About 150 of them are women. The phenomenon that's taking place, according to the Mexican government, is that there is an increasing number of women, even mothers, taking part in the cartel.

Drug cartel violence is at a peak in Mexico. More than 3,500 men and women were killed last year alone in this border town of Juarez.

And women and mothers are increasingly being used as drug mules by the cartel.

Claudia Mendoza, 27, is another woman caught up in the cartel. Even with a house full of children she too was lured into the deadly drug business. She doesn't have pictures of her children and they no longer visit. The family says it's because she's been "a bad example."

"When I see my children, I will ask for their forgiveness", she said in Spanish. "It's hard not to see them."

In another cell around the corner, Frida Espanza has a picture displaying her three children, and another terribly sad story of neglect.

Throughout this prison, the story is the same -- children unwillingly caught up in the drug cartel.

"What's going to happen to the baby?" we asked Guadelupe.

"She has her dad and my family," she said.

"So she will eventually leave the prison?"


The sad reality for this infant and most other children there: crime is a family business. Their fathers are just down another hallway, also behind bars.

Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.