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Colombia’s FARC Rebels Put Down Guns, Pick up Baby Bottles

The end of armed conflict in Colombia has spurred a baby boom among FARC rebels.

Jerly Suarez holds up her 9-month-old son Dainer at a rebel camp in a demobilization zone in La Carmelita, in Colombia's southwestern Putumayo state on Feb. 28, 2017.

Amid the makeshift tents and communal kitchens where Colombia's largest rebel army is preparing to lay down its weapons, a new sound is emerging: the cries of babies.

Fernando Vergara / AP

Vicente Pulecio plays with his 9-month-old son Dainer, who was born shortly before the FARC began its march to the demobilization zones.

The FARC kept strict control over its fighters' reproductive rights and female guerrillas who became pregnant were forced to leave newborns with relatives or abort. But after the FARC and government reached an agreement late last year, those rules loosened, resulting in a baby boom. 

 

 

 

Fernando Vergara / AP

FARC rebel Marly Velasquez holds her 18-day-old-daughter Andry Talia.

During times of war, constant confrontation with army soldiers and guard duties in jungle camps made raising children during the conflict difficult, if not impossible. Women were given steady supplies of contraceptives, and those who did get pregnant were presented with two options: leave the baby with the family members or end the pregnancy.

 

Fernando Vergara / AP

Guerrilla women from Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), walk with their children from their transitory camp to a rural site.

Over the past few weeks, FARC rebels crisscrossed Colombia on foot and by boat from their jungle and mountain camps to 26 zones monitored by U.N. personnel.

Mauricio Duenas Castaneda / EPA

3-month-old Junior Alexis Patino, son of FARC rebel Deisy Garcia, sleeps next to his mother's weapon at a rebel camp.

In La Carmelita, where 500 guerrillas are expected to turn over their weapons to the United Nations by June 1, women speak of both the arduous conditions in which they have begun their new lives as mothers and their hopes for raising children in a time of peace.

Fernando Vergara / AP

Sandra Saez holds her 4-month-old daughter Manuela outside her tent at a rebel camp.

Rebels claim that by enrolling female warriors they were freeing women from traditional gender roles that restricted their choices.

Fernando Vergara / AP

This combo of two photos of FARC rebel Mayerly Munoz shows her 32-weeks pregnant on Feb. 28, 2017 at a FARC camp inside a demobilization zone in La Carmelita, left, next to a photo of her taken last year on Aug. 16, 2016 at a jungle camp in the same area.

Among the 7,000 guerrillas gathered at the demobilization zones across the country, 114 women are pregnant and 77 babies have been born recently, according to the government.

Fernando Vergara / AP

Deisy Garcia makes her bed where her 3-month-old son Junior Alexis rests inside their tent.

Latin America's longest-running armed conflict killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions.

Fernando Vergara / AP

Nelcy Rios cares for her 9-month-old daughter Naiha Sofia.

Some of the guerrilla mothers are giving birth in camps, but most at nearby hospitals. Many in Colombia are referring to the babies as the "children of peace."

Fernando Vergara / AP

Jerly Suarez and Vicente Pulecio walk to a cooking class with their 9-month-old son Dainer.

"It wasn't seen as viable for us to have children, because why is someone going to have them when there are bullets flying around?" said Suarez, referring to the loosening of rules on baring children.

PHOTOS: Rebels Look Forward to Civilian Life

Fernando Vergara / AP