Gangs in Cali, in Colombia’s third largest city, are luring minors into their criminal organizations with the promise of sponsoring a future in professional soccer.
Police have arrested 14 people who, under the guise of being soccer scouts, recruited children into a gang of hired assassins.
The gang allegedly carrying out the recruitment of minors is called La Libertad and has been linked to at least 15 murders and several armed robberies in the Cali and the nearby towns of Tulua and Bugalagrande.
According to the Police, gang leaders “Don Memo” and “Pecas” convinced young children to join a fictitious soccer academy and promised them successful sporting careers.
“The young people were trained how to handle weapons and bound with death threats as opposed to help with fulfilling their sporting dreams,” said the Cali Police, adding that “rather than facilitate soccer programs, the children were introduced into the world of killings and theft.”
“These criminals pretended to be sport promoters in order to recruit minors in their gang of hired assassins… the youths were convinced that they were joining football schemes but in reality they were forced to enter the criminal world by threatening their families.”
The investigation is being conducted by the directorate of judicial police and has so far resulted in the arrest of nine people and three people that are linked to the crimes are already imprisoned. Some of the suspects have criminal records that link them with the notorious Colombian drug trafficking organization “Los Rastrojos.”
Gang members “Pescado,” “Camilo” and “La Chanda” were also arrested. They were allegedly responsible for obtaining guns and instructing the children to execute robberies.
The gang members have been implicated in the assassination of a 16-year-old who refused to join the gang, and the killing of a soldier.
All of the arrested gang members, including two minors, are being prosecuted for conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, possession of illegal firearms, drug dealing and the exploitation of children and adolescents for illegal purposes.
La Libertad reportedly published photos and videos on various social networks, in which they displayed young people carrying fire arms and taking part in illegal activities and threats to members of other gangs.