Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | September 20, 2012

Teens who kill, kidnap, and extort: Are they victims or criminals?

In Colombia, there are 2,400 young people, between the ages of 14 and 17, in 22 detention centers.

They are accused of homicides, kidnappings, and extortions. In fact, 600 minors are captured every year for homicides. About 20 percent of the minors in the detention centers are second-time offenders.

Colombia has the highest rate of minors committing crimes of any Latin American country, according to a study done by Unicef in 2010.

The detention centers are unsanitary, overcrowded, and food is scarce.

The young man who attempted to assassinate former minister Fernando Londoño was 16 years old. He was sentenced to eight years in a detention center. He was a hired killer and a member of the “Parche de Zuley,” a deadly gang from Cali who hires itself out as urban mercenaries.

Teen-aged hired killers also assassinated the former candidate of the UP, Bernando Jaramillo, in 1990, and minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla in 1984.

The question is: Are these young people victims of criminal gangs who use them; or have they embarked on a criminal career and are old enough to understand what they are doing?

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Responses

  1. Hi Paula,
    Your blog is really interesting! I am currently living in Colombia, and spend a couple of days a week as a volunteer intern with the organization CINDE which has a Centre for Advanced Studies in Childhood and Youth in alliance with the University of Manizales – I’m sure you would find their work interesting so let me know if you want any links to their research etc.
    If you are ever near Manizales it would be interesting to meet!
    Kate

    • Hi Kate:

      Thank you for your kind words. You made my day! Maybe we will meet one day!
      Can you send me your direct email? I promise I won’t publish it. I want to write you back.

      Paula


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