Judicial investigations reveal that the “social controls” put in place by the paramilitary group AUC including shaving girls’ heads and forcing them to do hard labor as punishment for what they considered to be “bad behavior,” newspaper El Tiempo reported Monday.
The leader of the Peasant Self-Defense Units of Meta and Vichada, Jose Baldomero Linares, alias “Guillermo Torres,” and four other members of the demobilized AUC unit have been accused of 190 crimes, including murder and kidnapping, for abuses committed against the inhabitants of the Llano region, near the border with Venezuela.
The investigations into these crimes have revealed human rights abuses against women and children on the part of AUC members, with the full knowledge of local authorities.
Women who were involved in “fights, scandals and gossip” were sent to do a month of hard labor on farms. The work included carrying stones, fixing roads and unloading trucks. Over a dozen girls who had their heads shaved as punishment for bad behavior were subject to further ridicule by community members until their hair grew out again.
The prosecution spoke to one such woman, who ten years ago was subjected to having her head shaved and sent to a work on a farm for allegedly leading a disordered life.
“I was ashamed to return home. People would call me a slut, a woman of the streets … It damaged my studies, my reputation. I ended my relationship with the boy who I had been seeing, and with my friends. As I had been punished, nobody wanted to be near me,” the woman said, according to El Tiempo.
In addition, the prosecution uncovered 127 cases of children recruited by the AUC’s Peasant Self-Defense Units. Parents who sought to “correct” the misbehavior of their sons, including drug use and delinquency, handed them over to the paramilitaries. Attempts to escape were rewarded with death.
“Two boys who tried to escape, we found them the next day, at seven in the morning. I killed Jeison Fernandez … I did it with a nine millimeter. I threw the body in the river,” confessed a former paramilitary who was also recruited to the AUC as a child.
The local head of the AUC unit, Linares, confessed that in the face of internal vendettas between paramilitaries, in particular that with the “Urabeños” gang, they recruited boys from schools. He gave details of a group of 15 children who were lured with the false promise that they would work on a farm and ended up armed and in uniform.
On the day of the AUC’s demobilization in 2005 the Peasant Self-Defense Units did not deliver any child soldiers. Former paramilitaries said they sent them home because the authorities did not know what to do with them.
Finally the Colombian Family Welfare Institute was able to locate them and include them in state programs.