RealNews

Colombia's Soldier-Farmers Get Training

Walter Gomez, his face streaked with camouflage paint, has exchanged a hoe for an assault rifle and is ready along with a thousand other “soldier-farmers” to defend their villages from rebel attacks. In a bold but controversial move, President Alvaro Uribe’s government is giving military training to young farmers to defend their remote villages far from any regular military bases from attacks by the leftist insurgents. Gomez’s village, high in the mountains above the colonial city of Popayan, has been attacked six times in recent years. For him, the program is a simple way for him to defend his family and farm. “Now, the town will be safer, not like before when there was a lot of danger because of the guerrillas,” the wiry 20-year-old during a break in training recently. Gomez is one of 108 soldier-farmers being trained in Popayan on handling weapons, patrolling, respecting human rights and carrying out urban combat tactics. Full Story

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