FARC, other criminal organizations recruit children in Colombia
By Dialogo October 28, 2013
The National Army rescued dozens of teenagers in the past nine months who were forced to commit crimes for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. (FARC).
Authorities transferred the teens to the Colombian Institute for Family Wellbeing (ICBF) to protect, rehabilitate and prevent them from going back to the criminal organizations.
“Minors are recruited either out of their will or by force,” said Catalina Niño from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation in Colombia (FESCOL). “Organized crime groups offer them money, weapons and recognition in exchange for becoming a member. Under pressure and threats, minors are then forced to commit crimes against civil society. Minor recruitment is cruel and difficult to control; it is a major challenge for authorities.”
The ICBF reported 177 children were rescued from the criminal groups this year – a 42.7 percent increase over the same period last year. Since 1999, 5,252 minors have been rescued from criminal organizations. Of those rescued, 72 percent are boys and 28 percent are girls.
Forced recruitment of minors by organized crime groups continues to be a practice. This phenomenon has reached schools, football fields and parties. Organized crime groups give presents, mainly expensive technological gadgets to entice minors to become members of the criminal groups, according to Ministry of Defense.
Besides the states of Atlántico, Amazonas, Risaralda, Quindío and San Andrés, the phenomenon of forced recruitment of minors occurs in the rest of Colombian states, according to published reports. Colombia is made up of 32 states.
FARC, the National Liberation Army (ELN), Los Rastrojos, Los Urabeños and other criminal organizations prefer to recruit children who are quiet, serious, strong and poor, according to the news website Verdad Abierta. The groups prefer to recruit attractive girls.
The documentary, “Fodder from different cannons,” reported that organized crime groups recruit boys to work as messengers to transport drugs as well as to work in illegal mines, meth labs and even as hit men, while girls are forced into prostitution. Those who refuse are killed. Recent studies suggest that about 18,000 children are involved in illegal armed groups and are recruited when as young as 12 years old.
The military is making a difference, Niño said. “Thanks to the successful operations by the Armed Forces in the past months, several children have been rescued from organized crime groups.”
Some recent successful cases:
• On Sept. 13, Colombian Army personnel rescued a 14- and a 15-year-old-girl in the Puerto Guzmán municipality, Putumayo. The minors said they were members of the FARC.
• On Aug. 29, Colombia Army rescued a 16-year-old boy in the municipality of Amalfi, Antioquia. The boy claimed to be a member of Los Rastrojos. He surrendered because he said he was “tired of fighting and living in darkness.” He told the Army he wanted a new life, to be close to his family and far from the weapons he used when working for a criminal group.
• On April 13th, Colombian Army troops rescued five minors in the department of Chocó. Their ages range from 10 to 17. The minors claimed to be members of the ELN.
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