Minors Saw FARC as a Way Out of Poverty: A Former Child Soldier Explains (E)
“I was recruited at 13. I lived through some hard things. Sexual abuse, poverty, bad treatment from my mother. I had no one else. The FARC defended me when my mother tried to hit me, so I thought they were something good. I asked them to take me.
“In other places, a child dreams of becoming a doctor or a fireman. Where I grew up, the children dreamed of becoming guerrilla soldiers. They were the only authority figures we had. There was no other group, no NGO looking after the people there. I did not see any other option, so for me, the guerrillas were an escape from my parents and the poverty I was born into.
“After I joined, I realized things were not as they seemed. I had intended to escape one sad and difficult reality but ended up with another, with the FARC. The training was hard. We had to walk for miles and miles and miles, and there were punishments for bad behavior, for not doing the jobs we were allocated, or if you didn’t wake up at dawn. I fell asleep on watch, and there were sanctions. They had a lot of punishments. You would have to build the trenches or dig the holes we used for toilets.
“One punishment for people who started a sexual relationship without permission was to be tied to a pole and left there in the sun or out in the rain. Thankfully, this did not happen to me. Some women who got pregnant were made to have an abortion. Sometimes, depending on the soldier’s rank, they would let them go into town and leave the babies [with local families].
“It was difficult, this life. I wanted to leave but had no choice. If you left there was a risk of retaliation against your family, your loved ones – it’s a guarantee you won’t become a deserter.” Newsdeeply