Colombia will suspend bombings on guerrilla camps with minors

Colombia will suspend bombings on guerrilla camps with minors

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Bogota (AFP) – The Colombian government announced this Thursday that it will suspend military bombardments on guerrilla camps where minors may be forcibly recruited. This method has been common in the context of the armed conflict to combat these armed groups, however they have generated great controversy in recent times due to collateral deaths.

“Minors forcibly recruited by illegal groups are victims of this violence (…) therefore any military action that is carried out with respect to members of illegal armed organizations cannot endanger the lives of these victims,” ​​he said at a press conference. Press Defense Minister Iván Velásquez.

“Life must be privileged over death and operations cannot be carried out (…) that endanger the civilian population,” he added.

The first left-wing government in Colombia, headed by President Gustavo Petro, has set a new course for the Armed Forces in defense of human rights and peace, after decades of conflict with various armed groups.

During his statement to the media, Velásquez suggested not repeating “very painful acts of the past”, referring to the repeated complaints by civil society and the opposition about the deaths of minors in bombings during the government of the right-wing Iván Duque (2018-2022). ).

The bombings of guerrilla camps were controversial in the past government

In November 2019, the then Minister of Defense, Guillermo Botero, resigned after a military action in which eight minors between the ages of 12 and 17 who had been forcibly recruited by FARC dissidents who did not accept the agreement died. peace of 2016.

The victims, who were in a camp in the south of the country, near the town of San Vicente del Caguán, were presented by the army as “criminals.”

At the end of 2021, leftist senator Iván Cepeda denounced the death of four minors in a bombing that resulted in the death of an important ELN guerrilla commander in the Colombian Pacific jungle.

“These actions in this direction must end (…) the bombings must be suspended,” concluded Minister Velásquez, who is in charge of implementing what he calls a “relationship of trust” between the soldiers and the population.

The new commander of the Armed Forces, General Hélder Giraldo, conditioned future bombings to a “high evaluation” of intelligence in which the presence of minors will be “reviewed” before approving such an action.

In more than half a century of armed uprising, the guerrillas and paramilitary groups have recruited young people and children to expand their force in areas with little State presence.

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