Several countries in Latin America are now considered mine-safe—Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and Suriname—and Nicaragua is nearing completion. Ecuador and Peru plan to be free of the impact of mines by 2017, but Colombia, with its ongoing conflict and security problem, will likely need more than 10 years to become mine-impact free.
Chile was affected by landmines during the Pinochet regime in the 1970s. Landmines were laid on Chile’s borders with Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru, as relations with its neighbors were strained at the time. In June 2009, United States Southern Command conducted a 12- day training event that resulted in 24 Chilean soldiers and one civilian medical doctor receiving quality instruction and orientation on applicable International Mine Action Standards with emphasis on one-man drills, medical support and Technical Surveys.
In cooperation with the Chilean National Demining Commission, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development Program continued an operational field evaluation of one Multi-Tooled Excavator and five Air Spade® demining digging tools in FY2009. These technologies represent a $450,000 investment to augment Chilean mine clearance activities. In FY2009 the excavator cleared 63 anti-tank and antipersonnel mines from 1,900 cubic meters of sediment in a challenging riverbed. To learn more about the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Program, visit www.humanitariandemining.org.
Colombia has faced internal conflict for the past 40 years, leading to vast landmine and ERW contamination. Conflict between non-state actors such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), paramilitary, and government forces have led to 31 of 32 departments in Colombia reporting incidents involving landmines or ER W. The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political- Military Affairs (PM/WRA) continued its partnership with the Colombia Campaign to Ban Landmines (CCCM) for mine-risk education (MRE) in the department of Antioquia. In addition, PM/WRA continued its support of three emergency response teams (ERT) through the Organization of American States (OAS). PM/WRA continues to support Centro Integro de Rehabilitación de Colombia’s (CIREC) Seeds of Hope program, which provides prosthetics, physical therapy, psychosocial support, educational and employment opportunities, as well as human-rights training to survivors of landmine accidents.
Between 2005 and 2008 the United States Government contributed $4.5 million in humanitarian mine action (HMA) support for Colombia. In 2009, PM/WRA contributed an additional $1.68 million to the Colombia humanitarian mine-action program as follows:
• OAS: $840,799 for operational demining team support
• CIREC: $200,000 to the Seeds of Hope project
• CCCM: $200,000 for MRE in Antioquia
• CIREC: $145,000 for an Invacare Wheel Chair training and workshop project (first of two years)
• The Polus Center for Social and Economic Development: $111,090 for a victim-assistance project
• Center for International Stabilization and Recovery at James Madison University: $87,066 to plan, coordinate, and implement an international workshop and conference in Bogotá
• Information Management and Mine Action Programs: $96,602 for the Colombia Information Systems Project to implement an information technology development project to integrate multiple social and economic parameters to HMA
Also in FY2009, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Leahy War Victims Fund (LWVF) provided $1.6 million in funding to Colombia as follows:
• Arch Angeles: $150,000 for medical rehabilitation and social inclusion of conflict survivors
• CIREC : $300,000 for victim assistance
• Mercy Corps: $1 million to address the needs of victims of conflict and other people with disabilities in Colombia by supporting rehabilitation and socioeconomic activities and education and training for rehabilitation professionals
In addition, United States Southern Command trained 23 military deminers, focusing on the International Marking System, basic humanitarian demining, medical combat life support, and Technical Survey. They provided equipment worth $10,000.
PERU-ECUADOR border: A deminer works to remove persistent landmines on an overcast day under triple canopy. [OAS Mine Action Program]
A child and a young llama travel in the mountains near Cuzco, PERU. [© iStockphoto.com/Brasil2]
In 2009, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided around $2 million in contractor support to strengthen Peru’s National Mine Action Authority and to conduct demining operations. PM/WRA also granted $150,000 to The Polus Center for Social & Economic Development, Inc. to conduct a victim-assistance training and coordination project in Peru. United States Southern Command provided to Peru equipment worth $34,000 and trained 30 military deminers in basic humanitarian demining, mine-risk education, and Technical Survey.