A harrowing report out of Colombia: Argentine news network Infobae reports that incidents of guerrilla forces drugging children with marijuana candy and ice cream are on the rise, the purpose of which is to kidnap and use them as spies and bomb planters.
A report released to celebrate the International Day Against Child Recruitment in war zones found that groups like the FARC and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) are actively recruiting children to help in the terror effort. To attract children to their cause, Infobae reports that guerrilla groups are using marijuana-laced candy and ice cream “to manipulate the will of minors.” These minors are then enlisted for intelligence and recruitment efforts. According to the Colombian government, the number of children enlisted to fight or aid in guerrilla violence is in the thousands, with the official toll at almost 7,000.
Children are a valuable commodity for Colombian guerrillas. They are used, Infobae notes, for both espionage and attacks. Small and unsuspected by the general population, children can more easily navigate urban areas to place explosives or execute the dirty work of terror attacks. Girls, in particular, are also victims of sexual violence and are abused until they are of age. Reports of starvation and forced abortions are routine for the FARC, for example, and other terrorist groups. If the children survive, they grow up to be among the most loyal guerrilla members and can rise to the leadership of the group if current leaders are arrested or assassinated.
The many far-left guerrillas of the region have also recently adopted an official policy in favor of legalization of most drugs. Shortly before a “Christmas truce” that the Colombian military immediately declared a “farce,” several guerrilla groups announced an “anti-narcotics” platform that would require the decriminalization of marijuana and other hard drugs. Many guerrillas, the FARC paramount among them, finance their violence with participation in the drug trade.
While the right-wing Colombian governments of Presidents Juan Manuel Santos and Álvaro Uribe, his predecessor, have made great strides in diminishing the influence of paramilitary groups in the country with the help of the CIA, violence still plagues much of the South American nation, particularly violence targeted at children. As The Washington Post reported last year, much of the success of the Colombian/CIA anti-guerrilla programs are due to using the same methods employed against Al Qaeda: targeted assassinations of organizational leaders.
While this diminishes the influence of groups, it severs ties between radicalized fighters lower on the hierarchical pyramid and any sort of ideological mission, fragmenting the groups while leaving dangerous individuals out in the open. These are the elements within guerrilla groups that target children. The issue of protecting children from guerrilla violence has become such a problem that it has sparked an economy of child-sized bulletproof vests and armored school clothes.