Struck with civil wars and battling transnational organized crime, Latin America has seen increasing violence in the past half-century. Central America was declared mine safe at the end of 2010, and it is the first worldwide geographical zone to reach this distinction. The government of Peru has pledged to be mine-free by 2017. Colombia, with its more violent past and current drug turmoil, will need more than 10 years to become mine-impact free.
Chile’s challenges with landmines date back to the former ruler Augusto Pinochet’s order to emplace for defensive reasons along borders with Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru.
In FY2010, the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) provided basic humanitarian mine action, Technical Survey and first responder train-the-trainer instruction to 24 members of the Chilean Army. In addition, SOUTHCOM provided demining equipment valued at $49,000 to Chile.
To assist in clearing mined areas, in cooperation with the Chilean National Demining Commission, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development Program continued the evaluation of one Multi-Tooled Excavator and five Air Spade® demining digging tools in FY2010. These technologies represent a $450,000 investment to augment Chilean mine-clearance activities. The excavator cleared 65 anti-tank and anti-personnel mines from 2,348 cubic meters of sediment in a challenging riverbed. To learn more about the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Program, visit www.humanitarian-demining.org.
Colombia’s frequent battles with illegal armed groups, including in particular the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), a U.S. Government-designated terrorist organization, have left the country littered with landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and unexploded ordnance (UXO). Explosive remnants of war are especially prevalent in areas around government camps and roads, and are also around schools, civilian roads, water sources, bridges, and housing areas. As a result of this contamination, in 2005 and 2006, Colombia had the highest number of new mine, IED, and UXO victims in the world—a staggering 1,100 per year. While these numbers have since declined somewhat, they still remain among the highest worldwide. Additionally, Colombia has one of the largest populations of internally displaced persons (IDPs) anywhere. More than three million IDPs are unable to resettle due to the continuing mine and UXO threat in 31 of Colombia’s 32 departments, as well as for other reasons, such as violence caused by criminal gangs, narcotics traffickers, and illegal armed groups.
From FY2006–FY2009, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) invested $3.9 million in Colombian humanitarian mine action (HMA), mine-risk education (MRE), and victim assistance (VA).
In FY2010, PM/WRA spent $2 million as follows:
• Centro Integral de Rehabilitación de Colombia (CIREC or Integral Center of Rehabilitation of Colombia) “Seeds of Hope” program—$525,000 for CIREC victim assistance for medical brigades in Sucre and near demining sites cleared by emergency response teams (ERTs), providing rehabilitation services, medical services, psychosocial support, education, and financial assistance to those harmed by armed conflict
• The Campaña Colombiana Contra Minas (Colombia Campaign to Ban Landmines)—$200,000 to fund MRE projects with the Antioquia province, expand MRE into the heaviest affected areas of Colombia, and bring MRE programs to 13 additional municipalities
• CIREC Wheel Chair Capacity Building—$100,000 to continue a 2009 grant along with U.S.-based Invacare to create new employment for people with disabilities and to evaluate the production and distribution of wheelchairs
• Organization of American States (OAS)—$1,175,000 to continue supporting three ERTs
Also, in FY2010, U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) provided $526,000 for HMA, Technical Survey, and first-responder missions. SOUTHCOM also provided training aids, trauma kits, demining tools, and metal detectors, and trained 44 people in mine clearance. In addition, the Humanitarian Demining Training Center (HDTC) deployed one subject matter expert in direct support of the SOUTHCOM HMA program. The purpose of the deployment was to conduct a program development visit assessment to analyze and plan HMA engagement strategies. HDTC also conducted a train-the-trainer course covering basic humanitarian demining techniques for four U.S. soldiers and 30 Colombian combat engineers.
During FY2010, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Leahy War Victims Fund further provided $1.5 million to three programs:
• The International Organization for Migration/Arcangeles to support the Sports Power program and the Paralympic movement to improve living conditions for people with disabilities
• CIREC to strengthen the Seeds of Hope program and increase the technical capacity of CIREC staff
• Mercy Corps to train 30 new rehabilitation technicians at the prosthetics school in Bogotá and support rehabilitation centers in San Juan de Pasto and Florencia
Ecuador’s landmine problems stem from its border dispute with Peru in 1995, when it mined six provinces in the Condor Mountain Range. Additionally, Ecuador is modernizing its weapons systems, working to eliminate excess small arms and light weapons (SA/LW), ammunition, and man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS).
In FY2010, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) granted DynCorp $174,000 to complete a SA/LW destruction and training project in Ecuador. DynCorp destroyed roughly 200 tons of ammunition and 44 MANPADS. It also trained a 25-man explosive-ordnance-disposal team. In addition, PM/WRA is sponsoring training of Ecuadorians at the Peruvian demining facility in Chiclayo, Peru, to increase cross-border collaboration. In FY2010, Ecuadorian medics received training at the Peruvian facility, and it is expected that more Ecuadorian medical personnel and Ecuadorian deminers will receive training at the Chiclayo facility in 2011.
U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) provided $183,000 in FY2010 to Ecuador to expand military capacity and train 30 individuals in basic humanitarian mine action (HMA), Technical Survey, and first- responder skills. The U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Training Center deployed one subject matter expert, who provided services valued at $7,633 in direct support of this SOUTHCOM training program. SOUTHCOM also provided equipment to the Ecuador military, including trauma kits, demining tools, metal detectors, stretchers, personal protective equipment, and training aids such as stakes, paint, mine tape, and classroom supplies.
Also in FY2010, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development Program, in cooperation with the National Demining Center of Ecuador, the Ecuadorian Army Demining Command, and the Organization of American States, continued evaluating the use of long-handled tools (valued at $7,000) along the Ecuador/Peru border. These hand-held power tools provide deminers with a sustainable and efficient method of clearing access lanes in dense jungles. Additional technology—including a $235,000 orbital sifter and crusher that were provided to Ecuador in 2010—will begin operations in FY2011 to clear mines from a riverbed. To learn more about the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Program, visit www.humanitarian-demining.org.
Guatemala’s security challenges from unexploded ordnance, anti-personnel mines, and small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) are the result of a civil war that spanned more than three decades. Though Guatemala currently has no known mined or battle areas, ERW continue to be found. In addition, armed violence and weapons stockpile explosions are threats to stability.
In FY2010, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided a $250,000 grant to the Organization of American States (OAS) for destruction of SA/LW and ammunition in Guatemala. OAS is working with the Guatemalan Ministry of Defense and subcontractor Golden West Humanitarian Foundation to implement this program. The primary goals of this grant are to destroy more than 50 tons or 12,000 Guatemalan SA/LW and approximately 250 tons of expired or unstable ammunition, thereby reducing the risk of transfer to unauthorized persons or groups and to diminish the possibility of accidental explosions at military facilities.
Landmines remain buried in five departments (Tumbes, Piura, Cajamarca, Amazonas, and Loreto) as a result of a border conflict with Ecuador in 1995. In particular, Peruvian minefield records show that the most heavily mined section, the Cordillera del Condor, has 31,405 mines located in the Santiago, Cenepa, and Achuime sectors. From FY2000–FY2005, the U.S. Government (USG) provided $5 million in humanitarian mine-action (HMA) funding to support coastal and utility tower demining as a consequence of its 1980–2000 internal conflict. In FY2005, the USG discontinued the program, but in August 2007, Peru again requested USG HMA program funding, and in 2008, the program was reinstated.
In FY2008 and FY2009, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $2,820,200 for mine clearance and to enhance Peru’s national capacity, bringing the total for FY2000–FY2009 to $7,820,200.
In FY2010, PM/WRA provided $2 million in support to Peru as follows:
• RONCO Consulting Corporation (RONCO)—$1.13 million to fund training, equipment, a major building renovation for the Chiclayo training facility, mechanized demining equipment for the national police at Peruvian prisons, and military medevac support at the Peru-Ecuador border jungle site. RONCO also supported the national police in demining at Peruvian prisons.
• RONCO—$500,000 to begin a mine-detection dog program to enhance productivity and quality assurance in demining zones.
• Polus Center for Social & Economic Development—$370,000 to conduct a comprehensive victim-assistance survey, assist in training mine victims, and develop capacity for the Instituto Nacional de Rehabilitación.
Over the last 20 years, Uruguay’s military has gone through significant reductions in size, rendering much of its small arms and light weapons inventory useless. While this military arsenal is relatively small, it is still a persistent threat. In addition, with an estimated 1.1 million firearms in civilian hands as of 2009, civilian gun ownership is the highest in South America per capita. Consequently, gun crime rates, including homicide and suicide, are on the rise.
In FY2010, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) deployed a member from the Quick Response Force to perform a capability assessment and commence safe and efficient ammunition disposal operations training to the Government of Uruguay’s armed forces.