HomeNoticiasNoticias del díaArmed Groups in Colombia Target Children Amid Pandemic
BRIEF

Armed Groups in Colombia Target Children Amid Pandemic

COLOMBIA / 22 JUN 2020 BY LARA LOAIZA EN

Irregular armed groups in Colombia have ramped up their recruiting of poor young people, who find themselves even more vulnerable with schools shut down indefinitely to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

In mid-June, Colombia's inspector general filed a report with the Attorney General's Office that warned of the recruitment of boys and girls across the country by a range of criminal actors, including Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) dissidents, known as the ex-FARC Mafia, the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN) and eight other armed groups.

The alert follows the May rescue of five children who the ELN had kidnapped in the a rural region of El Bagre, a northern municipality in the department of Antioquia.

Then in June, two Indigenous girls, 12 and 14, were targeted by a criminal group in the southern Amazonas department, Caracol Radio reported. The army intervened after family members told officials that the girls had been threatened and pressured to join the group.

Since the beginning of 2020, authorities have rescued 12 minors in Colombia's Amazon region, home to dozens of indigenous groups.

SEE ALSO: Warnings of Child Recruitment Taking Place Close to Bogotá, Colombia

According to Bogota-based non-governmental organization Coalición contra la vinculación de niñas, niños y jóvenes al conflicto armado en Colombia (COALICO), 128 cases of child recruitment were registered between January and April -- more than double the number of cases recorded in all of last year.

More than 30 cases of child recruitment were tallied in April, when the country was largely locked down due to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

InSight Crime Analysis

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the immense vulnerability of poor youth living in remote regions of Colombia, who are prime targets for armed groups that have long histories of abusing minors.

According to Julia Castellanos, a researcher with COALICO, the coronavirus lockdown "has become an opportunity for armed actors to lead girls and boys astray or to threaten their parents...and thus make them join the group."

While useful in stopping the spread of COVID-19, Colombia's shutdown of schools has effectively halted the education of children in rural areas, where fewer than 10 percent have access to a computer or tablet to attend virtual classes.

The pandemic has also left many poor rural families without any income. Some are going hungry, and apparently armed groups are offering families food for their children's services.

SEE ALSO: What Does Coronavirus Mean for Criminal Governance in Latin America?

Boys out of school are susceptible to offers of weapons, money or even drugs to entice them to join armed groups. Invitations to parties that are clandestine recruitment efforts have circulated on the popular messaging app Whatsapp.

Criminal groups, such as the ELN, have also used the pandemic lockdown to gather detailed information about children and adolescents living in areas under their control to later threaten their families, Prosecutor Carmen Maritza González told La FM.

Combatting child recruitment has become more difficult, since organizations which usually collect these complaints and bring them to the attention of authorities have seen their ability to travel to remote areas impeded by the lockdown.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 13 JAN 2015

Colombia is preparing a series of new legal reforms to tackle illegal gold mining, after seeing seizures of illegal gold…

COSTA RICA / 20 FEB 2017

Authorities in Costa Rica are worried that the dismantling of Colombia's main guerrilla group could threaten the Central American country's…

COLOMBIA / 26 MAY 2011

Colombia has announced a new security plan which aims to wipe out guerrilla groups and emerging drug gangs by 2014.

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…