PUTUMAYO, Colombia — In a rebel-held town deep in the jungle, Joel ran drills beside his comrades, line after line of them in camouflage and boots, rifles at their sides.
“To the right!” their instructor shouted.
For Joel, 36, this scene was familiar. He had spent six years in the army, fighting on the front lines against a brutal insurgency that had terrorized Colombia for decades.
But now he had a new employer: an illegal armed group that included the same insurgents he had spent his military career battling to defeat.
“I know it shouldn’t be like this,” he said recently, cradling a rifle in his lap. But after he left the army, he said, he’d struggled to make ends meet. Then came an offer of a salary of $500 a month, nearly twice Colombia’s monthly minimum wage.