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Diplomacy in Action

Latin America

To Walk the Earth in Safety: The United States Commitment to Humanitarian Demining
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
November 2001

Costa Rica

The Landmine Problem
As a result of external conflict with Nicaragua, Costa Rica is contaminated with approximately 2,000-5,000 landmines. The Organization of American States (OAS) estimates that the mine-affected terrain represents 170,000 sq. m of land along the Nicaraguan border, spanning an area from Rio San Carlos through Los Chiles and the frontier region near Upala. In 1999, the Government of Costa Rica extended the affected area west to Penas Blancas near the Pan-American Highway. To date, only three casualties from landmine-related incidents have been reported. These victims unsuspectingly wandered into minefields.

United States Assistance
The United States contributed over $4.36 million to the OAS/Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) for mine action operations in Fiscal Year (FY) 00. Under this program, Ministry of Public Safety (MPS) personnel were trained and equipped for demining operations. In 1999 and early 2000, RONCO Consulting Corporation trained four dog and handler pairs to conduct Quality Assurance and Level Two Survey operations in Costa Rica. During the first nine days of demining in 2000, the RONCO dog and handler teams helped to find and destroy 14 landmines.

In FY01, the U.S. State Department contributed $2.95 million to OAS/IADB's humanitarian demining initiatives. This funding sustained mine clearance activities, Medevac support to deminers, and a mine detection dog program. In January 2001, the U.S. Government presented Costa Rica's MPS with four mine detection dogs to be used in demining operations. Also included in the donation, were two trucks, medical supplies, and other mine detection equipment to facilitate mine action efforts.

Since FY93, the United States has contributed approximately $16.9 million to the OAS/IADB for mine action operations. Under this program, MPS personnel were trained and equipped for demining operations in Costa Rica. In addition, funding assistance was used to establish a communications base and to purchase vehicles, field equipment, and generators. With this infrastructure in place, the MPS began mine clearance operations in 1996.

The OAS, in coordination with the U.S. Embassy and local organizations, has provided prostheses, physical therapy, and economic aid for landmine victims. To date, MPS personnel have cleared over 100,000 sq. m of land and destroyed 331 mines according to the OAS Assistance Mission for Mine Clearance in Central America (MARMINCA). The United States completed its assistance to Costa Rica in July 2001 after the country reached the sustainment phase.


The Landmine Problem
After 30 years of internal conflict, formerly contested zones in northwest Guatemala harbor a moderate landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) problem. The Organization of American States (OAS) estimates there are between 1,500 and 2,000 landmines in the contaminated area that encompasses the Playa Grande/Ixcan region of Quiche and the vicinity of guerilla base camps near the Atitlan and Tajumulco volcanoes. Since the final Peace Accord was signed in December 1996, there have been no reported landmine-related casualties.

United States Assistance
In Fiscal Year (FY) 00, the United States allocated over $4.36 million to the OAS/Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) to support humanitarian demining in Central America. This contribution has funded training, a landmine/UXO awareness campaign, and landmine/UXO clearance.

The U.S. State Department contributed $1.35 million to OAS/IADB's humanitarian demining initiatives in FY01 and the U.S. Department of Defense provided an additional $1.6 million. U.S. assistance will continue to support training, mine awareness campaigns, and mine clearance in affected areas. Additionally, the U.S. Government provided four demining technology prototypes for field testing in Guatemala in 1998.

Guatemalan demining operations are supported by the OAS/IADB's regional demining program, which Guatemala joined in 1998. The United States has contributed approximately $16.9 million to the OAS/IADB, to date.

Since 1998, U.S. support has helped Guatemala clear more than 160 mines and restore almost 6,000 sq. m of terrain to productive use. In 2001, the OAS estimates that demining teams will sweep eight sq. km of land and locate approximately 300 pieces of UXO. The United States supports the Guatemalan goal of becoming mine-safe in 2002.


The Landmine Problem
As a result of conflict with neighboring countries, Honduras is infested with an estimated 15,000-35,000 landmines that are implanted along the borders with Nicaragua and El Salvador. Although the mined areas are not densely populated, civilian injuries are periodically reported.

United States Assistance
During Fiscal Year (FY) 00, the United States contributed over $4.36 million to the Organization of American States (OAS)/Inter-American Defense Board (IADB). This funding allocation supported mine clearance, victim assistance, and a mine detection dog (MDD) program in Honduras. Additionally, RONCO Consulting Corporation, a U.S. contractor, trained 12 MDD and handler teams to assess the extent of the post-Hurricane Mitch landmine problem in 1999 and 2000. Hurricane Mitch's harsh weather conditions shifted previously marked minefields in 1998, making them even more difficult to locate and subsequently clear. Also in 2000, USAID's Patrick J. Leahy War Victims Fund began providing support through the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to the Central American Triparite Landmine Initiative. In partnership with PAHO, USAID is working to increase local capacity to plan, implement, and manage appropriate strategies for landmine victims and other people with disabilities by providing short and medium term technical training.

The U.S. Department of State contributed $1.35 million to the OAS/IADB during FY01. United States assistance to Honduras in 2001 sustained victim assistance, mine clearance activities, and a mine detection dog program.

Under the supervision of the OAS/IADB, the United States has supported demining operations in Honduras since FY93, providing operational and logistical support for demining training conducted by multinational teams. Since 1993, the United States has awarded approximately $16.9 million to the OAS/IADB for demining operations.

To date, the U.S.-trained Honduran demining unit has cleared nine major minefields measuring approximately 333,000 sq. m and destroyed more than 2,200 landmines and several hundred pieces of UXO. Honduras is expected to declare itself mine-safe in 2001.


The Landmine Problem
After 12 years of armed conflict and civil strife, Nicaragua is the most heavily mined country in Central America. Warring factions laid mines during conflict, which ended in 1990. An estimated 134,000 landmines remained following the conflict. However, after nine years of demining efforts by government mine clearance operations, this number has been reduced significantly to approximately 108,000 landmines. Most of the mine-affected area is confined to the northern and southern borders and the central departments of Esteli, Jinotega, and Matagalpa. Landmines were also laid around installations in north-central and central Nicaragua. According to the International Red Cross, 2,472 landmine-related casualties have been reported.

United States Assistance
Nicaragua receives assistance from the United States through the Organization of American States (OAS) Inter-American Defense Board (IADB). In Fiscal Year (FY) 00, the United States allocated over $4.36 million to the OAS/IADB for mine clearance and victim assistance programs. Prior to 2000, Nicaraguan humanitarian demining operations were conducted on four "fronts" working in the northern, central, and southern sections of the country. An additional "front," supported by the United States through the OAS and staffed by 80 Nicaraguan soldiers trained by the U.S. Special Operations Forces, was launched in March 2000. In 1999 and 2000, RONCO Consulting Corporation, a U.S. State Department contractor, trained 12 mine detection dog and handler teams to conduct demining operations in Nicaragua. Soon after, the Nicaraguans requested four additional dogs to support ongoing mine clearance activities. In FY00, USAID's Leahy War Victims Fund began supporting the Central American Triparite Landmine Initiative, providing comprehensive assistance to rehabilitate people with disabilities, including landmine survivors.

In FY01, $2.95 million was allotted to the OAS/IADB to continue support to mine clearance and victim assistance programs. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Defense Demining and Research Development Program assisted Nicaraguan authorities in 2001 in conducting a metal detector evaluation to determine the most suitable detector for their needs.

To date, the United States has contributed approximately $16.9 million to the OAS/IADB for humanitarian demining programs in Central America. This allocation of funds has supported training of over 350 deminers, equipment purchases, victim assistance, and mine awareness campaigns. Although the devastation caused by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 thwarted humanitarian demining efforts in Nicaragua temporarily, reassessments of the extent of the post-Hurricane Mitch mine problem quickly redefined mine locations and severity and permitted demining operations to resume promptly.

To date, approximately 26,240 landmines have been found and destroyed by Nicaraguan deminers, declaring 24 Nicaraguan municipalities and 168 km of international borders mine-safe. In total, approximately 1,856,540.5 sq. m of land has been cleared.

Peru and Ecuador

The Landmine Problem
During the brief border war between Peru and Ecuador in early 1995, mines were laid along the disputed 79-km-long Cordillera del Condor region. Landmines were also placed haphazardly along other sensitive areas of the border during fighting. Although the actual number of landmines planted is unknown, the Ecuadorian government reports that 50,000-60,000 landmines remain in its soil. The Peruvian Government estimates there are 120,000 landmines along its border. Casualty rates are relatively low because most minefields, particularly along the Ecuadorian border and in Peru's most severely affected region, Cenepa Valley, are in sparsely populated areas. From 1995-1999, there were approximately 120 landmine casualties in Ecuador, the majority of whom were civilians, and 179 landmine casualties in Peru (62 army personnel, 67 police, and 50 civilians).

United States Assistance
In Fiscal Year (FY) 00, the United States contributed approximately $2.1 million to both Peru and Ecuador. In addition to covering the costs of Special Operations Forces (SOF) training, these funds were used to provide vehicle and equipment support and training for several classes of deminers. During 2000 and 2001, U.S. Army SOF trained Peruvian and Ecuadorian Army personnel in basic demining techniques.

In FY01, the U.S. Humanitarian Demining Program allotted over $1.66 million to Peru and $1.76 million to Ecuador to fund humanitarian demining activities. This contribution supported train-the-trainer programs and the provision of vehicles and equipment used for demining.

To date, the United States has contributed approximately $9.3 million to humanitarian demining activities in Peru and Ecuador. U.S. assistance commenced in 1998, following a U.S. Policy Assessment Visit and acceptance of the two countries into the U.S. Humanitarian Demining Program.

In March 2001, the Government of Ecuador signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the OAS making the Organization a partner in humanitarian demining operations in Ecuador on a pilot basis. Peru signed a similar MOA with the OAS in May 2001.

Both Peru and Ecuador have made significant progress in their humanitarian demining programs during the nascent stages of development. Since 1999, U.S. SOF has trained 458 Ecuadorians and 140 Peruvian army personnel in basic demining techniques. In February and July 2000, demining operations began in El Oro Province and the Oriente Region of Morona Santiago, Ecuador. By June 2001, an estimated 4,300 landmines and UXO were destroyed in the combined regions. In Peru, the first phase of demining was completed in 1999, when land was cleared to permit the placement of 30 border markers between the two countries. More recently, mine clearance operations have furthered plans for the construction of a road from the Ecuadorian border to the Twinza National Park.

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