According to Colombia’s “Mechanism for the Supervision of Risks to the Integral System for Peace,” about 542 Colombian children and teenagers have been forcibly recruited by armed groups since the 2016 September Peace Accords between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP).
The Mechanism’s statement on this matter detailed that not all are recruited to carry out violent actions, but may be utilized as informants, drug sellers (as drugs are often a major funding source for guerrilla organizations), and for sexual exploitation. In this regard, however, it is difficult to find a breakdown of the evidence with respect to different armed groups and their specific activities.
Those responsible for recruiting minors include the FARC as well as the Army for National Liberation (ELN), with whom the country’s new President, Gustavo Petro, is to hold negotiations.
Despite the fact that the ELN is apparently the criminal group that has recruited the highest number of minors, Colombia has suspended pending orders to apprehend ELN members who may serve as negotiators on behalf of the group while peace talks are pursued.
The ELN, which is ideologically Marxist, is classed as a terrorist organization by the EU, having targeted civilians. According to a report from the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Colombia:
During 2004, the FARC-EP and the ELN carried out a series of attacks against the civilian population, including several massacres of civilians and kidnappings by the FARC-EP. There were occasional joint actions by the FARC-EP and the ELN.
It now remains to be seen whether negotiations will help the situation of at-risk children in Colombia, or merely provide cover for organizations who rely on kidnapping.