Colombia: Nearly 3,000 Children Demobilized from Armed Groups in Nine Years
By Dialogo November 21, 2011
At least 2,962 minors who had belonged to Colombian illegal armed groups have been demobilized in the last nine years and have entered a government protection program, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón revealed.
Of a total of 24,303 members of those organizations demobilized in the last few years, around 13 percent have been younger than 18, Pinzón stated upon launching in Bogotá a campaign against forced recruitment named ‘Enough, I want to be free.’
Pinzón specified that 27 percent of demobilized minors belong to indigenous communities, 70 percent of whom were recruited by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a communist guerrilla group, when they were only between 12 and 14 years old.
“That’s dramatic. That’s a violation of children’s rights, in addition to the rights of indigenous communities,” he said.
In addition to the use of minors as combatants, Pinzón denounced that they are also sexually exploited by the various illegal armed groups.
The minister maintained that the departments with the highest rate of forced recruitment of minors are Caquetá (in southern Colombia), Antioquia (northwest), Cundinamarca (center), Chocó (west), and Cauca (southwest).
For nearly half a century, Colombia has been suffering a bloody internal armed conflict in which leftist guerrilla groups, extreme right-wing groups, drug traffickers, and criminal gangs oppose state forces.