Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | August 5, 2010

Uribe: Three steps forward for security, ten steps back for the rights of our children

Despite all of President Uribe’s impressive gains against the FARC, there’s a big drawback: Due to the high desertion from the FARC, the recruitment of minors has increased dramatically. Three years ago, there could have been between 6,000 and 11,000 child soldiers in Colombia. Today, there could be between 14,000 and 17,000, with 50 percent of them in the FARC, according to a report by the International Tribunal on Children Affected by War and Poverty.

Christian Salazar, the Colombian director for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, told Cambio magazine that the average age of children in armed groups is now 11 years old.

Teachers in rural parts are reporting recruiters who come to schools with candy, lunch and notebooks; and mothers say the recruiters show up at community events offering shoes, food, clothes, and money. When the child does not show up in the ranks the next day, the FARC comes after the family. Hundreds of thousands of families see that their only choice is to abandon their homes and join the ranks of poverty on the peripheries of the main cities where, sadly, once again, the recruiters show up offering “a job.”

The children are forced to be sentinels, to clean guns and rifles, to cook, and to loiter around army troops with the intent to gather intelligence—as well as to fight the army. The Colombian Army is finding that most of the corpses left to be picked up after confrontations with the FARC are those of minors.

With President Uribe leaving office on Saturday, we can say: three steps forward for security, ten steps back for the rights of our children. Child soldiers in Colombia is the subject of my forthcoming book, and you can read excerpts here.

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