More From Alder's Ledge

November 3, 2012

Like Lambs Among Wolves

Children Soldiers on Colombian Battlefields
(Part of the Lost Childhood series)

The War on Drugs has long raged in Colombia. United States presidents have committed large numbers of soldiers and special forces to combat the problem. We have fortune in tax dollars to prop up the Colombian government and even support militia groups that were supposed to combat organizations like FARC. But all this has led to a war we can not win yet can not afford to lose. 

For decades now the guerrilla armies of Colombia have been abducting victims that are often forced into slavery and at times conscripted into combat. Many have been sent to concentration camps deep in the jungle where they are forced into slave labor. Countless victims have perished in FARC captivity due to disease, starvation, and out right massacres. 

Children are the most vulnerable victims of this barbaric practice of slavery and forced conscription. In the past the bulk of these children forced into combat roles were young boys. Today an estimated 43 percent of the children are now girls. This sudden increase of girls in FARC captivity can be directly linked to their use as sexual slaves and the human trafficking coming out of South America. The boys are still used and subjected in the same manner although sexual abuse of boys in FARC captivity is on the rise. 

In 2012 the number of children currently acting as child soldiers in Colombia was estimated in a recent study (titled "Like Lambs Among Wolves" by Natalia Springer) to be 18,000 children. With just under half of these children thought to be young girls. All these children are currently used to secure the leftist FARC goal of bringing about a Communist state in Colombia. All are slaves to a cause not their own. All are subject to a mortality rate of nearly 90 percent. 

Outside of Colombia the children soldiers have few people who are willing to fight for them. In Europe and the United States their cause is subjected to politics and the lack of will to wage full scale war on the Colombian rebels. Politicians in the developed world rarely admit to the use of child soldiers in Colombia unless they want to sink more money into private projects. In South America the politicians support FARC for the most part. Hugo Chavez and Castro both sink what funds they have into overthrowing their neighboring country's government. Both Venezuela and Cuba view the use of child soldiers as a simple tactic of war.... a means that justifies the rise of a communist regime. 

As for life amongst their FARC commanders, the child soldiers are given little protection or care. They are forced to find their food or pillage and fight for it. Medicine is rare if ever given. And the task they are used for are considered to be the most dangerous task FARC carries out. These include the laying of landmines and improvised explosives... task that often end in the deaths of the children. 

In many cases of mass atrocities in which FARC takes credit the children soldiers are often forced to participate. Young boys and girls are forced to take captives and torture their victims at the direction of the FARC commanders. The female child soldiers are then forced to take part in rapes as they too are sexually abused in the process. These young girls are considered the sexual property of their FARC commanders. 

When Obama waived the sanctions on governments that employ the use of child soldiers he unfortunately did not have to lift restrictions on a single South American country. Countries like Venezuela, who support the use of child soldiers in neighboring countries, are not subjected to the sanctions imposed by the Child Soldier Protection Act of 2008. These rouge nations who support the exploitation of children and actively participate in human trafficking are left untouched by such laws in Europe and the United States. Instead they are allowed to continue with normal trade with the developed world. And in the case of Venezuela, who's natural resources Europe can't live without, their trade with the West goes uninterrupted. 

If the Western world is to actively fight against the enslavement of our world's greatest resource, our children, then we must go after all who support it. Countries like Venezuela must be punished as harshly as Iran has for its human rights abuses. We must cut trade, embargo their exports, and isolate these nations in such a manner that they can not continue to violate the inalienable rights of innocent children. As for those who more directly participate in the use of children as combatants... they deserve direct military intervention. 

This is not a war to stop the flow of drugs anymore. This is a war to liberate those put into slavery by the enemy. This a war for independence. This is a war to restore the dreams of childhood to those from whom it has been stolen.

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