A report by the Human Rights Ombudsman has warned that children in poorer parts of Bogota are being recruited by drug traffickers, arms traffickers and pimps, some by force.
“Children between 9 and 10 years are used by illegal groups in the different stages of the drug trafficking business. Children and adolescents between 9 and 15 years were used or linked by the offer of drinks, food, small gifts, money and sometimes electronic equipment so the recruiters could gain their trust and acceptance,” said the report, seen initially by RCN Radio.
The report highlights particular problems in Soacha, Ciudad Bolivar and Bosa, recording use of minors in a total of 63 neighbourhoods across the Bogota area.
“The reality of Bosa and Ciudad Bolivar shows that the groups “Aguilas Negras” and “Los Rastrojos” created linking strategies for children and youth activities such as ringer, messenger, collector for extortion, assassin, drug dispenser, among others,” says the Ombudsman’s report.
While many children are recruited by gifts and persuasion, there are also reports from Soacha of children taken away in trucks, presumably forcibly recruited.
The report also notes significant sexual exploitation of minors, some carried out by force. “Through different modalities that include the offer of money, promises of improved living conditions, force, threat, physical or mental violence,” pimps push girls into “sexual conduct” and prostitution, said the report.
The Ombudsman, Jorge Armando Otalora today said that if relevant authorities, including the Mayor of Bogota, refuse to act to end the exploitation he plans to force them into action by denouncing them to the government ombudsman.