The non-governmental organization (NGO) Aldeias de Crianças SOS warned this Wednesday of a “significant” increase in recruitment of child soldiers in Colombia at the expense of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the NGO, this increase is due to the closure of schools due to the pandemic and reduced government intervention in rural areas.
According to official figures, 12,481 children and young people were forcibly recruited in the country in 2020, although “the real number is likely to be significantly higher,” said Angela Rosales, director of SOS Children’s Villages in Colombia.
As a member of the Colombian National Peace Council, Aldeias de Crianças SOS, in a joint statement with human rights organizations, condemned the attack by the Colombian army on a FARC dissident camp under the command of Miguel Botache, also known as “Gentil Duarte” in the city of Calamar, in the estimated 12th century Child soldiers died.
In response to statements by Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano, who founded the attack and described underage soldiers as “machines of war”, the organization argued that children are not machines of war, but victims – both recruitment and starvation and despair, which they lead with them to ally armed groups.
“Children have the right to protection,” said Rosales, emphasizing that “recruiting as child soldiers is against international law.
So far, the National Institute of Forensic Medicine in Colombia has confirmed the presence of a child under the age of 16 among the victims of the military operation.
The age of the remaining victims varies between 19 and 25 years. The version of Casa Nariño, the seat of the Colombian government, has changed over time. Although they initially ruled out the possibility of minors at Gentil Duarte’s base of operations, they later not only recognized him, but also justified themselves by claiming that if they were “on the spot” they were part of the illegal structure. .
The chief of the Special Operations Command of the Colombian Army, General Jorge Hoyos, reiterated over the weekend that “all minors who are” in the middle of the offensive “are illegal armed fighters”.
The military operation took place in a rural area with difficult access near the Ajajú River in the municipality of Calamar, a key area for drug trafficking routes. In 2014, the Ombudsman warned of the risk of recruiting young people in this area.