Christian Science Monitor | Child drug traffickers: What can be done?
By Edward Fox, Guest blogger
A report on child recruitment by Colombia’s criminal groups draws attention to the prevalence of the tactic across the region, as gangs exploit a low-cost, low-risk, and highly expendable source of manpower.
The report by Watchlist on Children in Armed Conflict, entitled “No One to Trust: Children and Armed Conflict in Colombia,” is the result of two field studies conducted in 2011. Its findings paint a grim picture of minors entangled in an endless web of violence, helping to fuel it in some cases as they are forced or manipulated into becoming participants.
According to Watchlist, estimates on the number of child soldiers in Colombia vary from 5,000 to 14,000. Most troubling is the downward trend in the age of recruitment. Guerrillas and drug gangs have steadily lowered the bar, with the average age of those absorbed into these groups falling from 13.8 years in 2002 to 11.8 in 2009, said the report.
One of the main culprits in child recruitment is the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which exploits social disenfranchisement in rural Colombia, where many feel abandoned by the state. By offering education and food, the guerrillas convince young people to “sign up,” and to recruit their peers, said the report. The average age of a recruits to the FARC is roughly 12 years old, with 85 percent doing so “voluntarily,” according to the International Crisis Group.
Photo: “Poor in Bogota” Darwinist/Wikimedia Comons