Fredy Builes / Reuters A nephew of missing person Omaira Montoya, a member of Colombia's rebel group National Liberation Army (ELN) and who disappeared in 1977, holds a photograph of her during an event marking the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances in Medellin, Colombia, August 30, 2016.

Peace and Democracy in Colombia

Trading One to Get the Other

On a hot rainy day in August 2013, a group of young Colombians were celebrating the completion of a playground project in the village of Villarrica, Tolima. The project was funded by a nonprofit, Fundación ECCO, which I founded to encourage youths in rural areas affected by violence to develop leadership skills and engage in the democratic process.

After the celebration was over, a 12-year-old girl named Yaneth approached me. With scores of her peers looking on, the girl began to shake and cry. I took her aside, and she told me that a week before, a FARC lady [a recruiter, many of whom are female] had “taken away” three of her friends after school. She said that the lady had come back for her, and that she was terrified. Sobbing, Yaneth implored me: “Please, I don’t want to join their team!” My only recourse was to take down her full name and her mother’s phone number and alert the Colombian equivalent of child protective services, the ICBF. A few days later, an ICBF representative told me that she had called Yaneth’s mother about the FARC recruiter threatening her daughter. According to the ICBF representative, Yaneth’s mother said that there was no problem. She most likely feared retribution for saying otherwise.

Leidi, a member of the 51st Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), poses for a picture at a camp in Cordillera Oriental, Colombia, August 16, 2016.

Leidi, a member of the 51st Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), poses for a picture at a camp in Cordillera Oriental, Colombia, August 16, 2016.

As it happens, Yaneth and her mother will likely soon have a FARC recruiter as their new neighbor. On August 25, the Colombian government and representatives of the guerilla group signed a peace agreement in Havana. The agreement stipulates that safe haven camps (zonas de distensión or zonas de concentración) for demobilized FARC fighters must be established around the country, within which neither the Colombian army nor the national police will have jurisdiction. The locations of these camps were announced in late June, per a mandate by the Juan Manuel Santos administration. As it happens, Villarrica is one of two municipalities in the state of Tolima which will “host” one of these camps within its

Loading, please wait...

Browse Related Articles on {{search_model.selectedTerm.name}}

{{indexVM.results.hits.total | number}} Articles Found

  • {{bucket.key_as_string}}