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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Latin America

To Walk the Earth in Safety: The United States Commitment to Humanitarian Demining
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
September 2002

Flag of ArgentinaArgentina


The Landmine Problem

The Government of Argentina and the Government of the United Kingdom are discussing terms of reference for a joint study on how to remove the landmines on las Islas Malvinas/the Falkland Islands.

United States Assistance
In FY02, the United States provided Argentina $700,000 to fund a one-time U.S. military train-the-trainer session to Argentine humanitarian mine-action instructors in order to increase their ability to provide humanitarian demining training to other nations.

Flag of Costa RicaCosta Rica


The Landmine Problem
As a result of external conflict with Nicaragua, Costa Rica was contaminated with approximately 2,000-5,000 landmines. The Organization of American States (OAS) estimated that the mine-affected terrain represented 170,000 meters2 along the Nicaraguan border, spanning an area from San Carlos through Los Chiles and the frontier region near Upala along the Rio San Juan. 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 $1,850,000 to the OAS/Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) for mine-action operations in FY02. In FY01, the United States contributed $2,520,000 to OAS/IADB's humanitarian demining initiatives throughout Central America. This funding sustained mine-clearance activities, medical evacuation support for deminers, and an MDD program. In January 2001, the U.S. Government presented Costa Rica's Ministry of Public Safety (MPS) with four MDDs 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 2000, USAID, in a combined effort with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), has contributed $500,000 to improve the physical, social, and economic status of people in Central America coping with landmine injuries, war wounds, and other disabilities.

Since FY93, the United States has contributed more than $18,600,000 to the OAS/IADB for mine-action operations. Under this program, MPS personnel were trained and equipped for demining operations. 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. In 1999 and early 2000, RONCO Consulting Corporation trained four MDDs and handler-pairs to conduct quality assurance and Technical Survey operations in the country.

The OAS, in coordination with the U.S. Embassy and local organizations, has provided prostheses, physical therapy, and economic aid for landmine victims. According to the OAS Assistance Mission for Mine Clearance in Central America, to date MPS personnel have cleared more than 100,000 meters2 of land and destroyed more than 330 mines. The United States completed its assistance to Costa Rica in July 2001 after the country reached the sustainment phase.

Flag of GuatemalaGuatemala


The Landmine Problem
After 30 years of internal conflict, formerly contested zones in northwest Guatemala harbor a moderate landmine and UXO problem. The OAS estimates that between 1,500 and 2,000 landmines contaminate an area that encompasses the Playa Grande/Ixcan region of Quiche and the vicinity of guerrilla base camps near the Atitlan and Tajumulco volcanoes. The OAS also estimates that approximately 5,000 pieces of UXO infest agricultural land, villages, and towns in 13 high-risk departments of Guatemala. Since the final peace accord was signed in December 1996, no landmine-related casualties have been reported.

United States Assistance
In FY02, the United States allocated $1,850,000 to the OAS/IADB to support humanitarian demining in Central America. In conjunction with other donors, this contribution has funded training, a landmine-/UXO-awareness campaign, and landmine/UXO clearance in Guatemala.

Since 2000, USAID, in a combined effort with PAHO, has contributed $500,000 to improve the physical, social, and economic status of people in Central America coping with landmine injuries, war wounds, and other disabilities.

The DOS contributed $1,350,000 to OAS/IADB humanitarian demining initiatives in FY01, and the DoD provided an additional $1,170,000. U.S. assistance continued to support training, mine-awareness campaigns, and mine clearance in affected areas. Earlier, in 1998, the U.S. Government furnished Guatemala with four demining technology prototypes for field-testing.

In 1998, Guatemala joined the OAS/IADB regional demining program that supports demining operations in that country. To date, the United States has contributed more than $18,600,000 to the OAS/IADB.

Since 1998, U.S. support has helped Guatemala to destroy more than 160 mines and to restore almost 6,000 meters2 of terrain to productive use. In 2001, the OAS estimated that demining teams had swept eight kilometers2 of land and located approximately 300 pieces of UXO. The United States supports the Guatemalan goal of becoming mine-safe by the end of 2002.

Flag of HondurasHonduras


The Landmine Problem
As a result of conflict with neighboring countries, Honduras is infested with an estimated 15,000-35,000 landmines implanted along its borders with Nicaragua and El Salvador. Although the mined areas are not densely populated, civilian injuries are periodically reported. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch's high winds and heavy rains shifted previously marked minefields, making them even more difficult to locate and subsequently clear.

United States Assistance
During FY02, the United States contributed $1,850,000 to the OAS/IADB. This funding allocation supported mine clearance, victim assistance, and an MDD program.

The DOS contributed $1,350,000 to the OAS/IADB during FY01, and the DoD provided an additional $1,170,000. U.S. assistance to Honduras in 2001 sustained victim assistance, mine-clearance activities, and the MDD program. In 2000, the LWVF began providing support through the 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 Hondurans with disabilities by providing short- and medium-term technical training. Together, these organizations have contributed $500,000 to improve the physical, social, and economic status of people in Central America coping with landmine injuries.

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 that multinational teams conduct. Since 1993, the United States has awarded more than $18,600,000 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 meters2 and destroyed more than 2,200 landmines and several hundred pieces of UXO. Honduras is expected to declare itself mine-safe by the end of 2002.

Flag of NicaraguaNicaragua


The Landmine Problem

After 12 years of armed conflict and civil strife, Nicaragua became the most heavily mined country in Central America. Warring factions laid mines during this extended period of conflict. Although it ended in 1990, an estimated 134,000 landmines remained following the conflict. However, after 11 years of demining efforts by government mine-clearance operations, this quantity has been reduced significantly, to approximately 64,000 landmines. Most of the mine-affected area is confined to the northern and southern borders and to the central departments of Esteli, Jinotega, and Matagalpa. Landmines were also laid around installations in north-central and central Nicaragua. According to the ICRC, 2,472 landmine-related casualties have been reported.

United States Assistance
Nicaragua receives assistance from the United States through the OAS/IADB. In FY02, the United States allocated $1,850,000 to the OAS/IADB for mine clearance and victim-assist-ance programs. In FY01, $2,520,000 was allotted to the OAS/IADB to continue support to these two programs. Additionally, in 2001, the DoD Demining R&D Program assisted Nicaraguan authorities in conducting a metal detector evaluation to determine the most suitable detection device for their needs.

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 and the United Kingdom, through the OAS and staffed by 80 Nicaraguan soldiers trained by U.S. military personnel, was launched in March 2000. In 1999 and 2000, RONCO Consulting Corporation, a DOS contractor, trained 12 MDD and handler teams to conduct demining operations. Soon after, Nicaragua requested four additional dogs to support ongoing mine-clearance activities. In 2000, the LWVF began supporting the Central American Triparite Landmine Initiative, providing comprehensive assistance to rehabilitate people with disabilities, including landmine survivors. Since 2000, USAID, in a combined effort with the PAHO, has contributed $500,000 to improve the physical, social, and economic status of people in Central America coping with landmine injuries, war wounds, and other disabilities.

To date, the United States has contributed more than $18,600,000 to the OAS/IADB for humanitarian demining programs in Central America. This allocation of funds has been used to support training of more than 350 deminers, purchase equipment, support victim assistance, and conduct mine-awareness campaigns. The U.S. military donated $70,000 worth of demining equipment to this program. 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 their severity, and permitted demining operations to resume promptly.

U.S. funds that assist the Nicaraguan program have helped the country become an example of one of the most successful humanitarian demining programs in the Western Hemisphere. To date, Nicaraguan deminers have found and destroyed approximately 70,000 landmines, and declared 24 Nicaraguan municipalities and 168 kilometers of international borders mine-safe. In total, approximately 1,856,540 meters2 of land have been cleared.

Flag of PeruFlag of EcuadorPeru and Ecuador


The Landmine Problem
Two separate conflicts have created the current landmine problem in Peru. The first was an internal conflict between the Peruvian Armed Forces and armed insurgent groups. During this conflict, the Government of Peru used landmines in several parts of the country to protect critical infrastructure. The Peruvian National Police have reported that more than 54,000 anti-personnel landmines were placed around 1,655 high-tension electrical towers throughout the country. In the second conflict in early 1995, the brief border war between Peru and Ecuador, mines were laid along the disputed 79-kilometer-long Cordillera del Condor region. Landmines were also placed haphazardly along other sensitive areas of the border during the 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 that 120,000 landmines are situated along its border. The environment poses a significant challenge to mine-clearance operations. Many mined areas are in steep terrain and covered with thick tropical vegetation. Erosion and flooding are also problems in some areas, as is the laterite soil with a high metallic content. However, 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. Twinza National Memorial Park is a key political priority for clearance, because it is heavily saturated with landmines and UXO. The jungle terrain in Morona Santiago Province is challenging, because it is filled with a mix of conventional minefields, abandoned fighting positions, and UXO. From 1995-1999, approximately 120 landmine casualties occurred in Ecuador. However, due to poor record-keeping, mine-casualty statistics, particularly regarding civilians, are incomplete or inaccurate. Peruvian authorities have reported a total of 179 mine victims since 1995. The casualties include 62 military personnel, 67 policemen, and 50 civilians.

United States Assistance
In FY02, the United States contributed more than $1,000,000 to Ecuador and $700,000 to Peru to fund humanitarian demining activities.

In FY01, the U.S. Humanitarian Demining Program allotted more than $1,660,000 each to Ecuador and Peru. This contribution supported train-the-trainer programs and the provision of vehicles and demining equipment. Since 1998, the United States has contributed more than $9,800,000 to humanitarian mine action in both Peru and Ecuador.

U.S. military personnel have trained Peruvian and Ecuadorian Army personnel in basic demining techniques in each of the years 2000 through 2002. U.S. Army Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs specialists also provided assistance to the Government of Peru in the areas of mine awareness and mine-action management procedures. In March 2001, the Government of Ecuador signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the OAS making it a partner in humanitarian demining operations in Ecuador on a pilot basis. Peru signed a similar MOA with the OAS in May 2001. The purpose of the OAS Mine Action Program is to ensure that priority is given to location, demarcation, and destruction of landmines that endanger the civilian population, as well as to the development of mine-risk awareness campaigns, victim assistance and rehabilitation programs, and the socio-economic recuperation of formerly mined areas.

Both Peru and Ecuador have made significant progress in their respective humanitarian demining programs. Since 1999, U.S. military personnel have trained 612 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, respectively. By June 2001, an estimated 4,300 landmines and UXO were destroyed in the combined regions. As of March 2002, Ecuadorian deminers had destroyed 4,731 mines. In Peru, the first phase of demining was completed in 1999, when land was cleared to permit the placement of 28 border markers between the two countries. In 2000, mine-clearance operations furthered plans for the construction of a road from the Ecuadorian border to the Twinza National Memorial Park. By the end of 2001, the Peruvian Army had cleared the international canal at Rio Zarmulia on the border with Ecuador, and destroyed 37 landmines. During the same period, the Peruvian National Police had cleared mines around 248 high-tension electrical towers, destroying 212 mines in the process. Currently, a Public Mine-Awareness Campaign is taking place in El Oro and Morona Sand Provinces.

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