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  • FARC members help build peace camp facilities near the transitional zone of Pueblo Nuevo in the Cauca mountains of Colombia.

    FARC members help build peace camp facilities near the transitional zone of Pueblo Nuevo in the Cauca mountains of Colombia. | Photo: Reuters

The government estimates that about 170 underage individuals have joined the rebel group.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia will hand all the minors that have been fighting in their ranks to authorities by Tuesday, said FARC leader Félix Antonio Muñoz, aka "Pastor Alape" on Friday, when the concentration zones where the rebels have organized their demobilization will be formally terminated.

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“We are doing our best so by Aug.15 all the minors in the camps could leave,” said the FARC leader in a press conference.

So far, the guerrilla group has returned 86 minors that were fighting in the troops to the International Committee of Red Cross, before they were transferred to the Unicef services.

He also complained that the government was not complying with the reintegration program “Differential Path of Life” meant to help children go back to civilian life.

According to Alape, various groups of children that were handed to authorities have written to the FARC complaints that they felt “betrayed” for being handed to a program that was “sheer promises” and ended now “in a situation of total abandonment.”

He said that the program could not be implemented yet, leaving the children with “nothing at all.” He criticized the “hypocrisy” because “many talk about children's rights, but streets of Colombia are filled with minors living in very different conditions."

Until February 2015, FARC used to allow children over 15 years of age to join their ranks, and then raised the minimum age to 17. The government later decided to treat demobilized child recruits as victims, instead of combatants.

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The rebels argued that the youth joined the guerrilla because the government failed to provide them with decent economic and social conditions of living, especially in rural areas or marginalized suburbs.

The former FARC members are still waiting in 26 transition zones before they can fully return to civilian life after 52 years of armed conflict.

On June 27, the United Nations confirmed that the FARC, the largest leftist guerrilla army in Latin America, had delivered 7,132 weapons as part of the peace process to end decades of conflict and start their transition into electoral politics.

Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives approved a bill establishing a protection program for demobilized FARC members that have reintegrated into civil society. The bill now heads to the senate for approval.


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