October 15th, 2012
12:11 PM ET

Horrific use of child soldiers rising in Colombia, report finds

Sara Morales is in her early 20s, but already, she says, she's been to hell and back. The Colombian woman who lives in Bogota says she was forcibly recruited by the main guerrilla group in her country when she was just a young girl.

"When I was only 11 years-old I was raped by FARC guerrillas and for 11 years I was abused and exploited by them," Morales said.

FARC is a Spanish acronym for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, a leftist guerrilla group that has been at war with the Colombian government for about five decades.

Stories about children kidnapped or forcibly recruited by guerrilla groups came back into focus in 2006 when the Colombian government released a video confiscated during an army raid. The video showed squads of young kids being trained as guerrilla warriors in the middle of the jungle.

A recent study suggests that in the years after the video was released, armed groups, including paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug cartels, have not only continued recruiting children, but have increased the number of minors in their ranks in a dramatic way.

The study called "Like Lambs Among Wolves" was authored by Natalia Springer, the dean of the law school at Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano in Bogota, Colombia. Springer, who's also a political analyst and a human rights activist, has found that in the last four years, 18,000 children have been forced to join guerrilla groups and paramilitaries in Colombia.

"We actually have a humanitarian emergency in Colombia regarding the recruitment of children," Springer said. According to Springer, some of the minors taken away by armed groups are kidnapped, but others, especially those who live in remote, marginalized, and impoverished areas of Colombia, are lured by the prospect of food and shelter.

The findings of her study are chilling. Springer says she found 69 percent of those captured are 14 years of age or younger, some as young as eight. Ninety-eight percent reported they were abused or witnessed atrocities.

Springer also says that guerrilla groups recruit children to do "their dirty work" which includes extremely dangerous activities in which their lives are constantly at risk. "They're installing land mines, they're transporting explosives, they're kidnapping, they're involved in all of the activities that the adults are doing," Springer said.

Springer says her team noticed what she calls an alarming new trend. Whereas in the past the vast majority of the children captured by the armed groups were boys, the percentage of kidnapped girls has dramatically increased to 43 percent. In addition to combat activities, Springer says these girls are subjected to sexual servitude.

"For them it's a duty to sexually serve their commanders so by serving their commanders they identify a number of activities that for them were humiliating and difficult to accept," Springer said.

The Colombian government does not dispute that children are being recruited in large numbers, but questions the study's statistics.

Diego Molano Aponte, who's in charge of the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare, says he shares Springer's concern about the situation, but believes some data gathered for the study may be inaccurate.

"We, the government, have some doubts regarding the total number of 18,000 kids. We believe that their sources should be double-checked, because the statistic should be less than that. But in any case, it's continues to be a problem," Molano said.

Springer notes most of the children recruited are essentially illiterate - and indigenous Colombians are especially vulnerable. Among those who get recruited by the violent, armed groups, extreme poverty is the common denominator.

Sara Morales, the survivor, says she often thinks about the children who didn't make it. "We were a group of 300 children and only 12 of us were lucky enough to survive. We were 300 children who were subjected to all kinds of abuses by the guerrilla," Morales said.

The rest, Morales says, succumbed to disease or died in combat. Many others were forever silenced by land mines or their own commanders.

soundoff (130 Responses)
  1. Alex

    Nice! Let's hope that all European NGOs supporting FARC keep doing it!

    October 15, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Reply
  2. phearis

    This is all Obama's fault!!!

    October 15, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Reply
    • Justin

      No its not.

      October 15, 2012 at 6:39 pm | Reply
      • phearis

        But ... But ... But ... The GOP says everything is Obama's fault! Are you saying they're wrong?

        October 15, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Fal

      I see what you did there.

      October 16, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Reply
    • Yoodely

      and Jimmy Carter. Don't forget Jimmy.

      October 16, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Reply
    • Thor

      Yes... it is directly Obama's fault. Due to his paying large sums of money to "stimulate" American business for white people from elite schools, who he assumed would succeed, he has created angry intellectuals who have given to supporting imports from slave countries...

      October 17, 2012 at 7:00 am | Reply
      • Fal


        October 17, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • pappy

      probably not but by doing nothing he contributes to evil, so you should think b-4 opening your ugly pie hole

      November 16, 2012 at 10:47 am | Reply
    • min51


      December 3, 2012 at 11:19 am | Reply
    • falis

      ur right and the government

      November 6, 2014 at 1:07 pm | Reply
  3. Edwin

    Why is it that the international community knows more and finds out information first about our counrtry than the citizens? Could this be a lie to perpetuate the war?

    October 15, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Reply
    • Ted Davis

      Edwin...You don't even get HALF the news from around the world...I retired to Cambodia and I am willing to bet the farm, I know more of what is REALLY happening in the world than Obama...Willing to bet the farm buddy.

      October 17, 2012 at 5:34 am | Reply
  4. James

    FARC is very well beaten down now, and are in peace talks with the government. will see how that goes. It is true the international community knows more about human rights violations in Colombia such as this story, but its not just the FARC, its the right wing paramilitaries and the Colombian army.

    In any war lets not full ourselves, there are no winners. there are outragous slaugthering of human lives, destruction of property, land and everything around. Government and rebels in Colombia have killed many innocent people. I only hope that Colombia can move away from this violent pass and think long term about loving your neighbors. SUCH a beautiful country.

    October 15, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Reply
    • CapitanColombia

      James, the article is about the narcoterrorists FARC and paramilitaries recruiting and murdering children, not the Colombian army. Please learn how to read.

      October 15, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Reply
    • Adan

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      November 15, 2012 at 2:58 am | Reply
  5. soican

    Sounds like both sides are to blame equally.

    October 15, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Reply
  6. Ravi Singh

    So, how do all of you FARC-loving, Chavez-backing bleeding-heart liberal lefties like this one?
    How do you blame big business or Mitt Romney for this ?

    October 15, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Reply
    • GOP hate America

      dude are you a r e t a r d? how do you get from what these animals do to compare it to a democrat? It people like you that sit in your trailer in kentucky chewing tobacco and watching fox news all day and dropped out of high school that think know everything about the world even though the furthest you traveled was to the Quickmart in the pathetic dust hole you call home. You are the reason why the entire planet think Americans are fat lazy stupid people. Please do humanity a favor and do not breed your garbage genes

      October 16, 2012 at 9:01 am | Reply
      • Thor

        Hey "GOP hate America"... yes... YOU there! How in the world did you get the trailer park reference outta this guys name? Just stick to his rants..... and have a point!

        October 17, 2012 at 6:58 am |
    • GOP hate America

      and by the way idiot big business is what travels outside our borders because they can pay an 11 year old 10 cents a day to produce the walmart garbage you no doubt buy to furnish your pathetic lifestyle.

      October 16, 2012 at 9:03 am | Reply
      • pappy

        thats cause your loser leader cant create jobs here, you on bammy money arebt ya???? loser suck up that you are, ill bet your a real yessir, brown noser

        November 16, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • min51


      December 3, 2012 at 11:36 am | Reply
  7. Amir Ali

    Its not only mr barak obama faults mr biden also there n pak rangers having black color n if we give bomb shell empty given by pak army for bomb they also drugs

    October 16, 2012 at 4:50 am | Reply
  8. Amir Ali

    In punjab town army wooden box also saw for ms benazir bhutto's near truck bomb blast by his husband also pak army ispr its karsaz naval area main street..

    October 16, 2012 at 4:53 am | Reply
  9. Amir Ali

    Many sikh /hindu fake womens marriages by muslim asf officials n mly officials r also affect on night clubs n special induct ppls from indian mly by mrs obama

    October 16, 2012 at 4:55 am | Reply
  10. Mark

    So pour money into another Plan Colombia, right? Oh no! Not Child Soldiers! Who fought the Taliban in the Afghan invasion, the fat warlords? We paid the fat crooked warlords to conscript CHILDREN to do the fighting!!

    October 16, 2012 at 6:39 am | Reply
  11. Hmmm


    October 16, 2012 at 7:28 am | Reply
    • tron

      He only loves Americans.

      October 26, 2012 at 11:41 am | Reply
  12. Mv002

    This OLD news. Literally. As a Colombian citizen i can proudly say the Colombian government under the last two presidencies have largely diminished the presence of FARC in the country. I believe this study would have had a lot of merit if it would have been published 5-10 years ago. Now, things are a lot different. Not to say FARC (backed by tyrants like Chavez) has been completely eliminated, but no longer do they reign over Colombia.

    October 16, 2012 at 9:11 am | Reply
    • David in Tampa

      Columbia must be doing something right. My wife's IRA made 107 % in Columbia in the last five years. BTW google earth Medellin... I don't see any cities like that around here. WOW

      October 25, 2012 at 2:44 am | Reply
  13. Brian

    Why is my comment from 7:35 still awaiting moderation when another comment from 9:11 has been posted?

    October 16, 2012 at 9:32 am | Reply
    • pappy

      cause you didnt suck up to obammy

      November 16, 2012 at 10:46 am | Reply
  14. krm1007 ©™

    Child Soldiers of India

    India as a nation is facing a new problem concerning its children- emergence of children as soldiers in strife -torn states of Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, AndhraPradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland and Assam. They are getting drawn into fighting both with rebel groups as well as security forces. What was considered a problem in African countries of Sudan, Sierra Leone and other countries like Sri Lanka and Nepal has become a reality for India too.

    According to human right activists the actual number of children recruited by state or non state groups as soldiers is not as obvious as in other countries but we know there is an increasing number of children being drawn into active combat.These children exposed to war and conflict are one of the most vulnerable groups often forced to witness or perpetrate combat atrocities. They are scarred for life, their childhood shattered.

    October 16, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Reply
  15. Better for the American republic

    America should take a hint from these columbians. They believe in equality and recruit boys AND girls. Finally some real equality in the world.

    October 16, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Reply
    • A Caring Colombian*

      I just wanted to come on here and tell this person that he misspelled Colombia. Thanks

      October 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Reply
  16. FARC you

    The FARC is on the brink of being diminished to almost nothing. They do not have the strength or organization they did back in the 90's. The current government is working on peace talks with them in norway with the assistance of various nations. Wont be easy, but the Colombian government definitely has the upper hand. Both the wave of violence and drug wars are a fraction of what they were a decade ago. These kids are being recruited, which is wrong, but the FARC wont come close to what they 10 years ago...they're continuing on the right track, and just have to keep at it with a firm hand.

    October 16, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Reply
  17. A Caring Colombian*

    Corruption, fear and also our very little to nearly 0 security are also culprits to such heinous crimes taking place in my beautiful country..

    October 16, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Reply
  18. onedirectionforever

    This just is not right.

    October 16, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Reply
  19. notaposter

    And some nations support FARC. I believe the motherFARCers should all be executed but that's just me. The moment you plant a bomb in a bus and kill a bunch of innocent families is the moment you deserve to get a one way ticket to the guillotine.

    October 16, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Reply
  20. From Brian

    being attacked french invasion iron coffin intell (polland micro tech traning ground) beginning of bodybag stage vegtable soup, battleship grey, grey ghost mixed death, complete nervous systems, another ghost like sea horse( killer)

    October 16, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Reply
  21. Brian

    So its ok as long as boys are captured by alarming when its girls?????

    October 17, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Reply
    • Fal

      Clearly, it doesn't not say that. Read the rest of the article.

      October 17, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Reply
      • Brian

        I read the article. I am sure that is not what the author believes but the article is all about a girl and does mention the "alarming" trend of more girls being conscripted. While the goal is to highlight child soldiers it clearly (and maybe unintentionally) focuses on the female side.

        October 17, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  22. Dave

    I love watching little kids die in combat

    October 31, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Reply
  23. lucius


    October 31, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Reply
  24. Charli

    I am amazed at the crazy comments looking to assign fault. I read this article and feel very blessed not to have been raised with this as my reality and I want to figure out howI can make a difference. This is horrific and inhumane. We can all make a difference and do more than be a$$es behind out keyboards.

    November 7, 2012 at 8:14 am | Reply
  25. Xira

    Amerika has no problem with the use, and punishment of, child soldiers.

    We do it too, and we don't give enemy child soldiers a break. See the case of the 14 year old 'taliban' who's still rotting in prison under US insistance.

    November 14, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  26. Henry C

    its always amusing reading the comments on a US based news site, purely due to the fact that there simply is no depth or breadth to what is being said (or indeed thought). I guess this is why America can act with such impunity around the World with very little outcry from its citizens on what in other countries (some not so "civilised") would be deemed heinous crimes against humanity.

    November 23, 2012 at 11:34 am | Reply
    • badidea

      I don't know, I don't exactly see dissertations on the BBC or Al Jazeera when I visit their sites either. The comments look as shallow there as well, ranging from crude, to pedantic, to nasty, to patronizing and posturing....just like here.

      December 3, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Reply
  27. Evenstar13

    "it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin." Luke 17:2
    The people who force children into such detestable situations are at best spineless selfgrandizing cowards!
    God will have his vengeance and that right soon!

    November 27, 2012 at 9:58 am | Reply
  28. massoud

    I don't give a FARC !!!

    December 4, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Reply
  29. Deportivo

    Gracias por la información.
    Deportivo http://www.deportenvivo.net/

    June 20, 2015 at 7:15 am | Reply
  30. get real followers on soundcloud

    This is a list of words, not an essay. you're incompetent


    April 11, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Reply
  31. Rusty


    October 6, 2016 at 6:28 am | Reply

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