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COLOMBIA
Indigenous recruits
2/17/2010
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After attack on community, government says FARC is recruiting indigenous minors as spies in the southern jungle.

Colombia´s government and military said Feb. 10 that the country´s largest rebel group is recruiting indigenous children as spies in the country´s southern jungle.

Vice President Francisco Santos said indigenous children as young as 8 are forced to spy for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, looking out for Colombia´s military. Santos told journalists of a recent case of a 14-year-old girl who was recruited and then released, who said she would be killed if she failed to report back to her FARC commanders.

Colombia´s indigenous population has long suffered from the crossfire of the more than four decades of armed conflict between leftist guerrilla groups, paramilitaries and the military.

In a report released in January following his visit to Colombia, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People, James Anaya, noted that the government has failed to protect indigenous people from the conflict.

"I received information about an extremely worrying situation of violence and other crimes against indigenous people, as well as forced displacement and confinement, which threatens the physical and cultural survival of indigenous people of the country," said Anaya.

The report added that the two guerrilla groups, both the FARC and the National Liberation Army, or ELN, “recruited by force and voluntarily, boys and girls, who were used as combatants to install mines and explosives and conduct other military tasks.”

“This resulted in sexual abuses against girls, among them, rape and forced abortions.”

Anaya´s research also found that children in the paramilitary groups have not been totally demobilized, and that government forces have used minors as informants.

The United Nations Children´s Fund, UNICEF, has estimated the number of children recruited in Colombia by armed groups at between 8,000 and 11,000.

On Feb. 12, the Medellin-based International Tribunal on Children Affected by War and Poverty organization said that number could be as high as 14,000.
–Latinamerica Press.


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