Following a clash with members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, in the southwestern Cauca department, the country’s army reported on June 4 that the guerrilla group appeared to be forcing members of local indigenous communities to join their ranks, mainly youths between 12 and 15 years of age.
One male FARC member was killed in the raid, and three FARC members who were members of an indigenous resguardo, or reserve, were arrested, the army said in a statement on its website. Once in army custody, the three individuals — two of them minors — reported that FARC has been recruiting indigenous citizens from the area.
“Additionally, they said that the youngest ones, before they are incorporated into the illegal armed group’s ranks, are used to transport explosives, rations and to place anti-personnel mines, for which they would receive 15,000 pesos [US$8.4],” said the army in the statement.
The two minors were placed in care of the state, until paperwork was processed. The army said the local indigenous community and the minors’ parents should “not fear the denunciation and let the state move forward with action to avoid that these cases continue and that those responsible are unidentified and tried.”
But this is nothing new for Colombia’s indigenous communities.
Last year, the United Nations denounced the increasing danger faced by indigenous groups caught in the crossfire of the country’s more than four-decade armed conflict.
Indigenous groups are demanding a faster response, since this practice is already widespread and well-known.
“Guerrillas are recruiting many children and youths systematically,” Aída Quilcué, leader of the Cauca Regional Indigenous Council, was quoted as saying in local media. “We have cases of minors from 8 years of age to 15 who have been forcefully recruited by the FARC.”
“We are asking for the government’s help so this situation stops,” she said. “We are tired of seeing women raped, tortured, children dead, and children obligated to join the FARC’s ranks.”