Colombia is struggling to curb the cultivation of illicit crops like coca, the production and trafficking of illegal drugs, and the impact of Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs). It is estimated that over 90 percent of the cocaine in the United States comes from Colombia. Illegal activities conducted by armed groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), criminal gangs (BACRIM) and terrorist support networks have a direct impact on the United States. Youth are recruited or kidnapped into these organizations on a regular basis.
A U.S. Army team is working with their Colombian partners to degrade the capabilities of these criminal gangs. They are supporting programs to bolster the local government’s ability to reduce youth recruitment into the gangs. They also are looking to find ways to bring security to the local communities by providing valuable education and career options. Linares is a critical isolated village located approximately 60 miles from the capital of the Department of Nariño – an extremely vulnerable region for youth recruitment.
The U.S. team has identified an agricultural school that allows students to learn about livestock, agriculture, preservation of valuable ecosystems and receive entrepreneurial training. The program’s overall goals are for the students to become successful entrepreneurs, thereby countering the recruitment efforts of illegal armed groups and reducing reliance on illicit crop cultivation. Unfortunately, the school is running on 14 old tower computers that are currently supporting 24 students on a rotational basis. Seven of those computers are broken, but repair costs are much higher in comparison to replacement costs. The program is currently being forced to operate with 2-3 students per computer – which drastically reduces the program’s effectiveness.
Spirit of America can support the Colombian government and its US partners by donating 14 laptops. With the help of your donation, the project will promote the legitimacy of the local government by demonstrating their desire and willingness to provide education and career options for the at-risk youth in the area. It will also demonstrate SoA’s ability to react to the critical needs identified by U.S. Military personnel operating in the world’s toughest places.