The Marxist terrorist group FARC has begun releasing child soldiers into government custody as part of a peace deal that would see most FARC members avoid prison time and the terror group eventually evolve into a political party.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has been in negotiations with the government of President Juan Manuel Santos for the past two years, and they have finally come to an agreement to be implemented if the Colombian people vote “Yes” on a referendum scheduled for October 2. While the full agreement requires the “Yes” vote — and would result in the creation of a special FARC tribunal to process disarmed terrorists — the Marxist organization has already begun to meet some of the government’s demands, including the release of child soldiers into the government’s custody.
According to CNN, 13 child soldiers returned to the custody of UNICEF over the weekend, which described the former hostages as being in “good health.” “The girls and boys were received in establishments suitable for the process of reestablishment of their rights so that they are able to develop in the best conditions possible,” a UNICEF statement declared.
The Colombian newspaper El Tiempo reports that more are on the way — four or five en route to Ituango, Antioquia, in the nation’s mountainous heart. “It seems that they have been isolated [from other FARC terrorists] for days and they are waiting for directions to take them to where UNICEF and the International Red Cross will pick them up,” explained Ituango Mayor Hernán Darío Álvarez.
El Tiempo notes that, if the information the mayor has is accurate, UNICEF and the federal government have kept the state of Antioquia in the dark about it. “What we know is that they are verifying how many minors handed over last weekend are from Antioquia,” state official Victoria Eugenia Ramírez told the newspaper. “The process has been closed on the UNICEF and Red Cross end… I have not been informed.”
Similar to the African Islamic State affiliate Boko Haram, the FARC has long relied on child abductions to keep its number of fighters high. CNN estimates that 70 percent of its captives are under 14 years of age, and many are engaging in terrorist activity. “They’re installing landmines, they’re transporting explosives, they’re kidnapping, they’re involved in all of the activities that the adults are doing,” Natalie Springer, an academic studying the FARC, tells CNN.
Children of both sexes are also often used as sex slaves by older FARC terrorists. A study released in August found hundreds of cases of sexual abuse of minors, and just one FARC “in-house doctor” has been implicated in hundreds of forced abortions of female guerrillas.
In September 2015, President Santos announced the deal alongside the terrorist leader “Timochenko” and communist dictator Raúl Castro in Havana. Cuba has always provided FARC terrorists a safe haven, particularly in the aftermath of the joint U.S.-Colombian counterterrorism missions that decimated the group during the Bush/Uribe era. At the time, they vowed to put the deal up for a vote by March 23, but that date came and went.
Among other provisions, the deal would create a tribunal which would treat each terrorist as an individual case. The terrorist would be found guilty of either “crimes against humanity” or “political crimes,” and those found guilty of the latter would not need to serve prison time. The government has yet to provide a strict definition of either term, exacerbating fears that the FARC will receive impunity. To be processed through the special tribunal, FARC terrorists must hand over their weapons within 180 days of a “Yes” vote. An estimated 7,000 terrorists would then be reintegrated into Colombian communities.
A poll published shortly after the September 2015 announcement of a peace deal found that those communities most affected by FARC terrorism were extremely concerned by the prospect of their new FARC neighbors. The El Tiempo poll found 34 percent of Medellín residents would rather not live next to a FARC terrorist; more than double the number who would oppose living next to someone who had spent time in prison for non-terrorist activity.
In addition to potentially avoiding prison time, the FARC leadership would also receive non-voting representation in Congress and eventually be allowed to form a political party, alarming victims of the terrorist group’s 52-year war on Colombia.
Timochenko returned to Colombia this week after years of avoiding the law in Cuba. Greeting him in Santa Marta city was a billboard with his face prominently featured, reading “Do you want to see Timochenko become president? Vote Yes,” paid for by opponents of the so-called peace deal.
Most estimates place the FARC death toll at over 200,000 in the past 50 years, with tens of thousands abducted for ransom or use as child soldiers.