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Children Trapped by Colombia’s War, Five Years After Peace Deal

Cell service never arrived. The school, run by a nongovernmental organization, only goes to the 10th grade. The health clinic closed when its only nurse left amid the pandemic. The nearest city is four hours away on a dirt road so craggy that even the most rugged cars are often trapped in its muddy jaws. A ride out can cost nearly a month’s salary.

Many people are dairy farmers; some grow or pick coca, the base product in cocaine, one of the few profitable crops in the remote region.

“We are the peons of narcotrafficking,” said one farmer.

There is no police station, and many residents say their most memorable experiences with the state are their encounters with its soldiers, who arrive periodically to eradicate the coca crops or fight the rebels. On several occasions these encounters have ended with ruined livelihoods and injured civilians.

Before the peace deal, the FARC had a grip on this region, punishing petty criminals, issuing taxes and organizing work crews, all under the threat of violence. They also commonly recruited young people.

In 2016, when the FARC signed the peace deal and demobilized, its fighters left in a fleet of boats on the Guayabero River.

Three months later, the FARC dissidents arrived, said Jhon Albert Montilla, 36, the father of another girl killed in the military bombing, Danna Liseth Montilla, 16.


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