Colombian Demobilization Campaign Appeals to Giving at Christmas

Colombian Demobilization Campaign Appeals to Giving at Christmas

By Dialogo
December 08, 2014





In the last eight years, thousands of Colombian guerrillas have demobilized and returned to civilian life as productive members of their society. In doing so, these individuals have given themselves the gift of an opportunity at a new life.

That is precisely the theme of this year’s disarmament and demobilization campaign by the Colombian National Defense Ministry’s Group for Humanitarian Assistance to the Demobilized (GAHD). They have been executing varied multi-media campaigns against the illegal recruitment of minors by illegal armed groups as well as to foster disarmament and demobilization among their members for years, appealing to human emotion, family values and the Christmas spirit to instill a desire for a life free of weapons and the illegal actions guerrilla members live with as part of the ranks.

This Christmas season, it’s no different. Titled, “During Christmas, anything is possible,” the annual effort is using mass media to broadcast radio and television ads leading up to an event inviting guerrillas to use the Christmas season as an opportunity to switch their weapons for their families, for a job, a sport, a life.

“Demobilized guerrillas have given themselves the gift of returning to their families or making new families, having a job, starting a business, purchasing or renting a home, visiting new destinations, starting a music band, and simply, creating the possibility of making their dreams become a reality,” says Iveth Carmen, Communications Director of the GAHD. “There’s no one better than them to invite their former guerrilla comrades to do the same.”

To achieve this and show the community the positive effects such a life-altering “switch” can have, demobilized former guerrillas are accompanying the event by giving their individual testimonies and enforcing the fact that each guerrilla member has the power to make a change in their own lives and reminding them to fight for it, noted Carmen.

The GAHD did something similar in 2010 with Operation Christmas, in which members from the Colombian Army’s Rapid Deployment Force Command descended onto the jungle late one night with 2,000 LED lights to decorate a more-than-22-meter-tall tree activated with motion sensors so it would light up when passersby came near it. Displaying a large sign with the message, “If Christmas can come to the jungle, you can also come home. Demobilize. During Christmas, anything is possible,” the operation appealed to the Christmas spirit to foster disarmament and demobilization among members of the country’s illegal armed groups, including the terrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

According to data from the Ministry of National Defense, 331 demobilized guerrillas admitted that the tree and the message motivated them to leave the terrorist organization, an increase of 30 percent over demobilizations in December 2009.

The group again resorted to human emotion to promote demobilization in 2013, with the “Juega por la vida” (Play for Life) campaign, in which they piggy-backed on the momentum created by the national (and world-wide) soccer fever ahead of the FIFA World Cup celebrated in Brazil in June 2014, and delivered thousands of soccer balls with anti-recruitment messages simultaneously throughout 14 municipalities in rural areas where illegal armed groups such as the FARC exert their power by forcing minors from their families and homes to join their ranks.

In addition to providing the soccer balls as gifts, the campaign included educational and family activities in which children participated in sports tournaments, arts and crafts, puppet shows, etc. while civilian, government and military authorities joined together to promote family values, respect for Colombia and for living a life within a legal framework with support of parents, schools and the community in general. In fact, “Juega por la vida,” was so successful originally, that subsequent iterations have followed throughout 2014.

This year’s campaign is using joy —specifically the joy of demobilized members at having given themselves a chance at a new life by demobilizing — as the emotional force to encourage guerrillas to disarm and follow suit. The demobilized member’s attestations are emotionally charged and detail their daily struggle to continue to fulfill their objectives.

“By demobilizing, I gave myself the gift of a mom,” says Ramiro Velez, who demobilized from the FARC’s ranks seven months ago. In doing so, he won back his family and a place in his home. Others like him gave themselves back their studies, a family, a home, a soccer team and a girlfriend, according to the GAHD campaign.

“These broadcasted statements will utilize the mass media to reach guerrilla members that are still active throughout the country, and serve as convincing calls to continue to feed our concept of telling guerrillas that this must be the Christmas in which they give themselves the gift of an opportunity at a new life,” concluded Carmen.




In the last eight years, thousands of Colombian guerrillas have demobilized and returned to civilian life as productive members of their society. In doing so, these individuals have given themselves the gift of an opportunity at a new life.

That is precisely the theme of this year’s disarmament and demobilization campaign by the Colombian National Defense Ministry’s Group for Humanitarian Assistance to the Demobilized (GAHD). They have been executing varied multi-media campaigns against the illegal recruitment of minors by illegal armed groups as well as to foster disarmament and demobilization among their members for years, appealing to human emotion, family values and the Christmas spirit to instill a desire for a life free of weapons and the illegal actions guerrilla members live with as part of the ranks.

This Christmas season, it’s no different. Titled, “During Christmas, anything is possible,” the annual effort is using mass media to broadcast radio and television ads leading up to an event inviting guerrillas to use the Christmas season as an opportunity to switch their weapons for their families, for a job, a sport, a life.

“Demobilized guerrillas have given themselves the gift of returning to their families or making new families, having a job, starting a business, purchasing or renting a home, visiting new destinations, starting a music band, and simply, creating the possibility of making their dreams become a reality,” says Iveth Carmen, Communications Director of the GAHD. “There’s no one better than them to invite their former guerrilla comrades to do the same.”

To achieve this and show the community the positive effects such a life-altering “switch” can have, demobilized former guerrillas are accompanying the event by giving their individual testimonies and enforcing the fact that each guerrilla member has the power to make a change in their own lives and reminding them to fight for it, noted Carmen.

The GAHD did something similar in 2010 with Operation Christmas, in which members from the Colombian Army’s Rapid Deployment Force Command descended onto the jungle late one night with 2,000 LED lights to decorate a more-than-22-meter-tall tree activated with motion sensors so it would light up when passersby came near it. Displaying a large sign with the message, “If Christmas can come to the jungle, you can also come home. Demobilize. During Christmas, anything is possible,” the operation appealed to the Christmas spirit to foster disarmament and demobilization among members of the country’s illegal armed groups, including the terrorist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

According to data from the Ministry of National Defense, 331 demobilized guerrillas admitted that the tree and the message motivated them to leave the terrorist organization, an increase of 30 percent over demobilizations in December 2009.

The group again resorted to human emotion to promote demobilization in 2013, with the “Juega por la vida” (Play for Life) campaign, in which they piggy-backed on the momentum created by the national (and world-wide) soccer fever ahead of the FIFA World Cup celebrated in Brazil in June 2014, and delivered thousands of soccer balls with anti-recruitment messages simultaneously throughout 14 municipalities in rural areas where illegal armed groups such as the FARC exert their power by forcing minors from their families and homes to join their ranks.

In addition to providing the soccer balls as gifts, the campaign included educational and family activities in which children participated in sports tournaments, arts and crafts, puppet shows, etc. while civilian, government and military authorities joined together to promote family values, respect for Colombia and for living a life within a legal framework with support of parents, schools and the community in general. In fact, “Juega por la vida,” was so successful originally, that subsequent iterations have followed throughout 2014.

This year’s campaign is using joy —specifically the joy of demobilized members at having given themselves a chance at a new life by demobilizing — as the emotional force to encourage guerrillas to disarm and follow suit. The demobilized member’s attestations are emotionally charged and detail their daily struggle to continue to fulfill their objectives.

“By demobilizing, I gave myself the gift of a mom,” says Ramiro Velez, who demobilized from the FARC’s ranks seven months ago. In doing so, he won back his family and a place in his home. Others like him gave themselves back their studies, a family, a home, a soccer team and a girlfriend, according to the GAHD campaign.

“These broadcasted statements will utilize the mass media to reach guerrilla members that are still active throughout the country, and serve as convincing calls to continue to feed our concept of telling guerrillas that this must be the Christmas in which they give themselves the gift of an opportunity at a new life,” concluded Carmen.
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