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Mexico: Violent kid video sounds off crime frustrations (VIDEO)

Viral video ‘Niños Incomodos’ plays up inconvenient truths ahead of country’s July 1 presidential election.

Mexico graveyard 2012 4 19Enlarge
Nearly 50,000 people have died since Mexico began waging war on drug cartels in late 2006. (JESUS ALCAZAR/AFP/Getty Images)

MEXICO CITY, Mexico — A young boy with gelled hair, sporting a suit and looking stressed, puffs a cigarette. He’s later robbed at gunpoint, by two boys in hooded sweatshirts. The mini criminals make a run for it, but a police car cuts them off.

To avoid arrest, the thieves must hand over the stolen goods to a crooked cop — another boy, smiling fiendishly from inside his squad car.

Dark irony and movie-quality production characterize “Niños Incomodos,” roughly "Discomforting Children," a video that is stirring debate and controversy in Mexico, ahead of the July 1 presidential election. Niños Incomodos has caught fire on social networks, netting hundreds of thousands of views.

A group called Nuestro Mexico del Futuro (Our Mexico of the Future) released the video last week. It features 8- to 12-year-old actors who replicate problems that regular Mexicans face daily, according to the group, which describes itself as “a social movement,” and is backed by several large national companies.

Violence in Mexico has spiked since President Felipe Calderon deployed troops to combat drug cartels in late 2006. Since then, about 50,000 people have been killed, according to government statistics. Another 5,000 have disappeared. Extortion and kidnappings also keep Mexicans angry and afraid.

As they become more web savvy, they are increasingly sounding off their frustrations online — and sometimes their woes go viral. The Nuestro Futuro website claims the group has collected almost 11 million visions of a better future from people across the country.

Read more: Latin America clamors for alternatives to drug war

The video had 2.7 million views on YouTube earlier in the week. After that was removed, reposted versions are heating up again.

The instant popularity of the slick internet campaign has hints of the “Kony 2012” video released last month by the San Diego-based group Invisible Children.

But unlike the record-setting Kony video — which advocated overseas intervention to stop alleged war criminal Joseph Kony — this campaign sticks to Mexico’s domestic issues. Its vignettes address crime and the future of youth growing up in a violent world, but offer no direct policy prescriptions.

“The principal intention of this project is to spark conversations in favor of our country, and conversations of reflection and conscience towards a change that we should have,” said Nuestro Mexico del Futuro spokeswoman Monica Mejia.

“A video is not going to change a country, obviously. However, this is an important first step to provoke change.”

But critics have branded the group a mouthpiece of political and business interests. “The campaign Nuestro Mexico del Futuro is just another maneuver by the right-wing business class to favor a ‘reforms agenda’ to serve the private sector,” wrote the alternative news site Pulso Ciudadano.

Mejia stresses that her group is completely non-partisan. Yet, with a general election coming on July 1, the video attacks politics head on.

Read more: Mexico's controversial narco ballads

In a concluding scene, a young girl directly addresses the presidential candidates. “If this is the future that awaits me, I don’t want it,” she says. “Enough of working for your political parties and not for us.”

The main candidates endorsed the campaign via their social networks. “I accept your challenge, I want to join you,” tweeted Josefina Vasquez Mota, of the ruling National Action Party, who trails second in the polls.

“It’s time to revive hope and change Mexico,” frontrunner Enrique Peña Nieto, of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), wrote on his Twitter account.

Not everyone shares the same sentiments. Lawmaker Miguel Angel Garcia Granados was one of several PRI politicians to denounce the tactics. “The use of kids like this, in such horrible scenes [of violence] is regrettable,” he said on a popular news show.

Others in parliament said that the video should be taken down for similar reasons.