Alias “the German” (“El Alemán”), a former paramilitary, admitted responsibility for recruiting 309 minors. Fredy Rendón Herrera was the former chief of the Élmer Cardenas Block of the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia.
The list of children and teens was compiled with his help. Of the 309, 98 were 17 years old, 84 were 16, 79 were 15, 26 were 14, 15 were 13, 2 were 12, 4 were 11, and one was 10. Their physical appearance made it obvious they were under-age. Only 150 of them have returned to their families.
The minors were taken to the training camps known as El Totumo, El Guayabito, El Roble, Nueva Luz, La Barracuda, El Parque, Escuela Gabriel Withe, Loma de Queso, Escuela de Mundo Medio, Escuela la 35, El Sábalo, La Palomera, El Mapalao, Samuel Hernández, and Glavelino, where they received between one and three months of training.
They then became camp guards, bodyguards, nurses, cooks, low-ranked commanders, and “rancheros” charged with keeping the camp’s fire lit. They received a salary between $140 and $200 dollars.
According to International Law, the recruitment of children under 15 years old is a war crime. So far, none of the minors’ families have come forward to denouce the crime.
On the contrary, the majority of the children joined the paramilitary forces voluntarily and even with the support of their parents. Their reasons included unemployment, lack of schools, and domestic violence.