printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Programs: Latin America

To Walk the Earth in Safety: The U.S. Commitment to Humanitarian Mine Action
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
August 2004



Flag of GuatemalaThe 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 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 FY03, the United States allocated $1,511,000 to the OAS/Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) to support humanitarian mine action 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, the U.S. Agency for International Development, in a combined effort with the Pan American Health Organization, 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. Additional U.S. assistance continued to support training, mine risk education campaigns, and mine clearance in affected areas. The U.S. Government has also furnished Guatemala with four demining technology prototypes for field-testing.

As of August 2004 when this edition of To Walk the Earth in Safety was published, the United States had contributed over $25,000,000 to the OAS/IADB for all humanitarian mine action in both Central and South America.


Since 1998, U.S. support has helped Guatemala to destroy more than 349 mines, and to restore almost 8,631 square meters of terrain to productive use.



Flag of HondurasThe 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 FY03, the United States contributed $2,011,000 to the Organization of American States (OAS)/Inter-American Defense Board (IADB). This funding supported mine clearance, survivor assistance and a mine detecting dog program. Under the supervision of the OAS/IADB, the United States has supported demining operations in Honduras since FY 1993, providing operational and logistical support for demining training conducted by multinational teams. As of August 2004 when this edition of To Walk the Earth in Safety was published, the United States had contributed over $25,000,000 to the OAS/IADB for all humanitarian mine action in both Central and South America.


Through September 30, 2003, the U.S.-trained Honduran demining unit has cleared nine major minefields measuring approximately 431,785 square meters of land and destroyed more than 2,271 landmines and several hundred pieces of UXO.

A partnership fostered by the U.S. Department of State between the Polus Center for Social and Economic Development, a U.S. non-governmental organization, and Grapes for Humanity, a private Canadian charitable foundation, led to the creation of a center in Choluteca, Honduras, devoted to treating landmine survivors and other victims of conflict-related health problems. The Vida Nueva (New Life) center opened in February 2003.



Flag of NicaraguaThe 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 the conflict ended in 1990, an estimated 134,000 landmines remained. 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.

Nicaraguan mine risk education trainers, funded by the United States through the OAS/IADB, teach the dangers of landmines to rapt young pupils.
United States Assistance

Nicaragua receives assistance from the United States through the Organization of American States (OAS)/Inter-American Defense Board (IADB). In FY03, the United States allocated $2,011,000 to the OAS/IADB for mine clearance and mine survivor assistance programs. The U.S. Department of Defense Demining R&D Program has assisted Nicaraguan authorities in previous years in conducting a metal detector evaluation to determine the most suitable detection device for their needs.

RONCO Consulting Corporation, a Department of State contractor, has trained a total of 16 mine detecting dog and handler teams to conduct demining operations.

Targeting Nicaragua and other Central American nations, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Leahy War Victims Fund and the Pan American Health Organization have developed a regional approach to improving the physical, social and economic development of landmine survivors and other people with disabilities. The program has enhanced professional development and training through a variety of methods including academic scholarships and microfinance activities to extend savings and credit programs to the disabled.

Through a USAID subgrant to the Polus Center for Social and Economic Development, partial funding is provided for the Walking Unidos clinic to manufacture and fit prosthetic limbs and orthotics as well as providing prosthetic replacements, adjustments and foot replacements.

As of August 2004 when this edition of To Walk the Earth in Safety was published, the United States had contributed over $25,000,000 to the OAS/IADB for all humanitarian mine action in both Central and South America. Funds have been used to support training of more than 350 deminers, the purchase of equipment, mine survivor assistance and to conduct mine risk education campaigns.


U.S. funds that assist the Nicaraguan program have helped the country become an example of one of the most successful humanitarian mine action programs in the Western Hemisphere. To date, Nicaraguan deminers have found and destroyed approximately 21,868 landmines, and declared 24 Nicaraguan municipalities and 168 kilometers of international borders mine-safe. In total, approximately 1,047,811 square meters of land have been cleared.



Flag of PeruFlag of EcuadorThe Landmine Problem

Two separate conflicts created the current landmine problem in Peru. The first was an internal conflict between 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 has 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, during a 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 its high metallic content that can create false signals or mask the presence of landmines from landmine (i.e., metal) detectors. 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 unexploded ordnance (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

Typical rugged landmine-infested terrain along the Ecuadorian-Peruvian border.  (Photo courtesy of Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement)From 1998 through September 30, 2003, the United States contributed $10,404,000 to humanitarian mine action in both Peru and Ecuador. U.S. military personnel have made contributions to both countries through their "Train-the-Trainer" program, the provision of vehicles and demining equipment and mine risk education. In March 2001, the Government of Ecuador signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Organization of American States (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 education campaigns, mine survivor assistance and rehabilitation programs, and the socio-economic recovery 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 in the Oriente Region of Morona-Santiago, Ecuador. In March 2003, the OAS reported that a total of 61,649 square meters of land had been cleared of 4,286 anti-personnel landmines. In Peru, between June 2002 and May 2003, 17,651 mines were cleared from around 688 high-tension electrical towers. Land has also been cleared to permit the placement of 28 border markers between the two countries. Mine clearance operations furthered plans for the construction of a road from the Ecuadorian border to the Twinza National Memorial Park. Mine risk education has assisted populations in the Provinces of El Oro and Morona-Santiago.

Back to Top

Do you already have an account on one of these sites? Click the logo to sign in and create your own customized State Department page. Want to learn more? Check out our FAQ!

OpenID is a service that allows you to sign in to many different websites using a single identity. Find out more about OpenID and how to get an OpenID-enabled account.