ColombiaOne.comColombia newsTikTok, the Guerrilla's New Tool for Recruiting Youths

TikTok, the Guerrilla’s New Tool for Recruiting Youths


TikTok Guerrilla Youths
The FARC’s Central General Staff guerrillas use TikTok, the most popular social network among young people, for recruitment in Colombia – Credit: Josep Freixes / Colombia One

TitkTok is the new tool used by guerrillas to recruit young people in Colombia. This has been denounced by entities that fight against the recruitment of children and adolescents in the country, who have warned of the use of this short video platform, is very popular among young people, by the largest dissident group of the former FARC, known as Central General Staff.

Under the slogan “The Jaime Martinez Front is waiting for you, young man,” this armed group operating in the department of Cauca has managed to capture the attention of young Colombians through publications which promise a better life, accompanied by images of boots, canteens and plates of rice.

This guerrilla group, which has been holding complicated peace talks with the government of President Petro since the end of 2023, is going through a reorganization. After the breakdown of the bilateral ceasefire, ordered by the government, the armed group announced this week the creation of a new front in the south of the country, its largest area of operations.

New forms for old practices

The recruitment of young people is unfortunately nothing new in Colombia. Traditionally, a huge variety of illegal armed groups, with or without political ideology, have taken advantage of the rampant poverty and scarce opportunities in rural areas to recruit young people, many of them minors, into their ranks.

Now, some of these groups are updating their recruitment methods and have not hesitated to take advantage of social networks. Of these, TikTok is currently the most popular among younger segments of the population, making it the tool of choice for broadcasting progaganda and a message that seeks to seduce and offer false opportunities for the future to young people and adolescents.

The message emitted by these armed groups is the same as always: promises of a better life, a permanent dose of excitement and the idealization of finding a substitute for a nuclear family, often non-existent for many young people. The supposed economic opulence, achieved mainly through drug trafficking and illegal mining, are also seductive images for people without prospects in life.

With an updated rural poverty rate that exceeds 46%, some of these young people look to illegal armed groups not only as an opportunity for the future, but also as a way to escape domestic violence.

According to the Ombudsman’s Office, in 2023 the country’s guerrillas and drug traffickers recruited 110 minors, and so far this year 23 more minors have joined these armed groups.

TikTok Guerrilla Youths
The images of the new guerrillas seek a certain continuity with the old and demobilized FARC – Credit: @FARCEP_ / X

An expanding guerrilla

The EMC guerrillas are in full expansion mode. After becoming the main armed group, which emerged after denying the peace agreements that the former FARC signed with the government in 2016, the group commanded by alias Ivan Mordisco now has 3,500 members.

The AFP news agency has found on TikTok dozens of accounts and hundreds of EMC publications. France Press has denounced the existence of several pages where the armed group communicates with young people who respond to the recruitment call. Through simple comments, the supposed “revolutionaries” manage to contact these people, whom they quickly invite to speak “privately”.

These are accounts that follow each other, and often share videos where images of uniformed men on horseback or crossing rivers in boats can be seen, accompanied by motivational texts. The accounts have thousands of followers.

The coca leaf and a display with the colors of the Colombian national flag complete the supposedly revolutionary image of these groups that, with the same objective as always, have modified the means to reach young people eager for a change in their lives.

These messages, according to experts, serve both to recruit new people and to provide a form of internal cohesion for groups that often survive scattered and with little or no bonding. The images of uniforms, money, women and a seemingly easy, vibrant life offer a sense of community, of being part of a collective of chosen ones fighting against a third party.

The strategy and ideology, in reality, is the same as always. What changes, now, is the propaganda instrument, the vehicle to reach new generations struggling with old problems.

TikTok Guerrilla Youths
The guerrillas are increasingly made up of younger and younger people – Credit: @FARCEP_ / X

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