Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | March 18, 2014

Around 1,387 minors in ranks of armed drug groups between 2012 and 2013.

Colombia’s Ministry of Defense reported there were about 1,387 minors in the ranks of armed groups, like the FARC and the ELN, between 2012 and 2013.

The Ministry of Defense launched a campaign to alert kids on ways they can be recruited. At first, many are asked to be informers in their community. Many are also lured in by false promises of money. (See: What “volunteering” for FARC really means.)

Around 65 % of 31,550 former combatants were recruited as children, according to the Ministry of Defense’s Group for Humanitarian Attention to the Demobilized. (See: 4 of every 10 in FARC, ELN or Paramilitary are minors.)

The video above, filmed by the FARC in December 2013 in southern Tolima department, shows children receiving arms training. The video was found by the army in January 2014.

Of interest: At the very front of the group’s formation, where fighters are most exposed to fire and where the most experienced ought to be, are pre-adolescents. At the back of the formation are older kids, perhaps adolescents. And at the very back is a man with a mustache. This means the youngest kids are the most expendable to the FARC. The youngest kids are cannon fodder.

The video above shows the FARC’s indoctrination of children and adolescents in the “José Maria Cordoba” training camp. Kids use Ak-47s and Galils.

The training camp, known as an initiation, lasts one month. It tests the children’s mental alertness, physical strain, and their response to authority. From there, the best kids are selected to receive further training.

The FARC continue recruiting children while talking peace in Havana. Any negotiations must include immediately returning children to their families.

I feel very passionate that children are not a political issue. Child soldiers are kids who had no one looking out for them when their lives were stolen from them. Children are forced into this modern form of slavery right here in the Western hemisphere, a mere three-hour plane ride from Miami.

My book-in-progress is about my encounter with two former child soldiers in Colombia. You can read excerpts here and here.


Ombudsman: increased recruitment of children and teens into neo-paramilitary gangs in Bogotá’s peripheries.

Education of former child soldiers is still a big hurdle.

Former teen combatants look to rebuild sense of family.

The psychological, cognitive and behavioral challenges of child soldiers coming home.

Chocó: forced recruitment, illegal gold mining, cocaine industry.

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