In March of this year, the Colombian army carried out a bombardment in the San José del Guaviare area against insurgent structures, carried out based on information provided by Colombian intelligence that indicated that Miguel Botache Santillana, alias Gentil Duarte, one of the main leaders of the FARC Dissidents, an attack authorized by President Iván Duque, carried out by the joint command of special operations, causing the death of at least 8 minors who were in the area, victims of the forced recruitment carried out by these insurgents, facts that have been denounced due to the increase in the recruitment of minors since the arrival of Gentil Duarte in 2016. It should be noted that the Minister of Defense was unaware of minors in the area, so Minister Miguel Botero resigned after a measure of censorship requested by the Colombian parliament.
The children recruited to operate in the paramilitary ranks, according to the investigations carried out by various journalists, the minors are used for missions (transporting weapons, intelligence work and smuggling). Captured minors are also members of criminal structures, being also victims of sexual and personal abuse.
According to the current Minister of Defense, Diego Molano characterizes minors as “shields” of the guerrillas without taking into consideration their duty to protect minors: first by the guerrillas, and then their re-victimization by the army. Molano said that minors stop being victims when they commit a crime, in this regard, the director of the organization specialized in childhood, Humanidad Vigente, Olga Silva, told Efe that, “it is presumed that when children have been linked to an armed group is because there has been forced recruitment “
According to the reference extracted from El País: Molano, the Minister of Defense, has responded that all the protocols of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) were complied with in the military operation designed against the structure headed by Gentil Duarte, former commander of the FARC who retired of the negotiation that led to the peace agreement sealed at the end of 2016. “It is the Prosecutor’s Office and Legal Medicine who determine who they are, how old they are,” the minister told Caracol Radio in one of several interviews about an action. that he insisted on describing as “legitimate” a “criminal, narco-terrorist” who has done a lot of damage to Colombia. Amid the confusion over exact numbers and ages, Blu Radio reported that according to a preliminary report there was a minor under 16 among the bodies. However, the Institute of Legal Medicine pointed out that “the information provided by third parties and that has reached the media about the identities of the bodies is not official” in a statement.
“Those structures that exist are young combatants who protect a terrorist and who seek to affect Colombian society,” said Molano – who was director of the Colombian Institute for Family Welfare, ICBF – in statements that have sparked public debate. “The discussion here is not the legitimacy of our public force to carry out these operations, but how the FARC dissidents continue to recruit these young people and turn them into war machines,” added the minister. At that time, he reported on his social networks that 13 members of the Gentil Duarte dissent had been “neutralized” in the attack.
Written by Mikaila D, Latin America based writer for The MOC