Army commander selected Monday the Colombian town La Maracena to launch campaign against recruitment of minors into FARC guerrilla forces, urging people to come forward with information.
Colombia’s Armed Forces commander, General Freddy Padilla on Monday announced his intention to launch the campaign from the town of La Maracena, in the southern department of Meta – where the FARC have a history of influence and control.
Padilla revealed that since 2002, some 4,339 people have been demobilized from illegal armed groups such as the FARC in the region, 656 of whom were under-age, reported newspaper El Colombiano.
The initiative has been launched to avoid more rural inhabitants being linked to insurgent factions and will focus on the forced recruitment of children. Padilla expressed that the national government will be grateful for all those who choose to demobilize because it signifies a contribution to peace in Colombia.
The general stressed furthermore that he believed the FARC to be losing it’s power at the top because “the current leaders are ageing and have no one to replace them … the organization does not and never will have a future.”
According to authorities, though there is a strong police presence in the town of La Macarena, the FARC continue to keep their eye on it.
The mayor of La Macarena, Eliecer Vargas Moreno, acknowledged that forced recruitment of minors continues, but claimed the town had seen encouraging results this year with a decrease in the level of forced displacement and the report of only one child being recruited.
Colombia’s Vice Minister of Defense asserted that the “FARC are struggling more to recruit people into their troops. However, children and indigenous people are the most susceptible as they represent the most vulnerable sector of the population … The most effective demobilizations occur among older guerrillas … demonstrating that they no longer believe in the ideologies [of the FARC] and wish to leave.”