2012 To Walk the Earth in Safety: Latin America
Latin America is home to almost 10 percent of the world’s population and covers approximately 14 percent of the world’s land area, extending from the deserts of Mexico through the Strait of Magellan and Tierra del Fuego. The region has experienced much violence over the past 50 years, from border disputes and civil wars to conflicts with internal armed groups. Security challenges and increases in recent violence largely are due to transnational organized crime, illicit arms dealing, and drug trafficking. Improved security and maintenance of arms stockpiles in some countries has helped to reduce violence and unintended explosions that affect surrounding communities. While Peru aims to be “mine free” by 2017, only several years ago, in 2005 and 2006, Colombia had the most new mine victims in the world, a devastating 1,100 per year. Colombia continues to have among the highest incident rates of new mine victims in the world.
Landmines remain along Chile’s borders from tensions with Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru during Augusto Pinochet’s regime in the 1970s. According to the Landmine and Cluster Munitions Monitor, as of 31 March 2011, Chile reported that 143 of its original 199 mined areas in 17 municipalities remained to be learned.
In cooperation with the Chilean National Demining Commission, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development Program (HD R&D) continued an operational field evaluation of one Multi-Tooled Excavator and five Air SpadeR demining digging tools in FY2011. These technologies represent a $450,000 investment to augment Chilean mine-clearance activities. The excavator cleared 176 anti-tank (AT) and anti-personnel (AP) mines from 13,000 cubic meters (17,003 cubic yards) of sediment in challenging riverbeds. The current objective is a dry creek bed located next to a busy highway, containing the deep, jumbled washout of a mixed low-metal AT and AP minefield. To learn more about the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Program, visit http://humanitarian-demining.org.
Children participating in a mine-risk education program in San Jacinto, Colombia. Photo courtesy of OAS/Carl Case.
Frequent armed conflicts between Colombia and non-state illegal armed groups, particularly the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC), designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. Government, have left unknown amounts of landmine and explosive remnants of war contamination throughout the country. Unsecure munitions and small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) stockpiles also present risks throughout the region. Anti-personnel and antivehicle mines, as well as improvised explosive devices, have been laid by terrorist groups along routes used by government forces, around their camps, and around schools, civilian routes, water resources, bridges, housing areas, and illicit crop cultivations, also contributing to the internally displaced people rate. In 2005 and 2006, there were 1,100 new landmine victims each year in Colombia, the highest mine casualty rate in the world. In 2007 and 2008, casualties decreased to below 900 each year, halting a decade-long upward trend but still remaining among the highest in the world. According to the Landmine & Cluster Munitions Monitor, in 2009 and 2010 respectively, this figure was reduced to 741 and 512 annual casualties.
The Organization of American States provides mine-risk education in San Jacinto, Colombia. Photo courtesy of OAS.
From FY2006–FY2010, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) invested $5.9 million in humanitarian mine action (HMA) in Colombia. From FY2005–FY2010, the U.S. Government also provided more than $5 million in funding for HMA in Colombia through projects overseen by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), including USAID’s Leahy War Victims Fund, and U.S. Southern Command.
In FY2011, PM/WRA provided a total of $2,350,000 to fund the following HMA projects:
• The Organization of American States (OAS) received funding to continue to support the maintenance and development of six emergency response teams.
• Centro Integral de Rehabilitacion de Colombia (Integral Center of Rehabilitation of Colombia, or CIREC) “Seeds of Hope” program was provided support to fund three medical mobile brigades and three new associations. CIREC provides integrated rehabilitation services, as well as medical services, psychosocial support, educational opportunities and direct financial assistance to civilians affected by armed conflict.
• Campaña Colombiana Contra Minas (Colombia Campaign to Ban Landmines) received a grant to fund a mine-risk education project in 12 municipalities in Antioquia. The program aims to strengthen the local capacity for mine action by training local authorities, social organizations, and community groups.
• The Polus Center for Social and Economic Development received funding for the Coffeelands Trust, which provided prosthetic/economic/social services to victims in Narino and Caldas departments.
In addition, in August 2011, at the request of the U.S. Military Group in Bogota, the SA/LW Program of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency conducted a physical security and stockpile management (PSSM) technical seminar in Colombia. The goals of the seminar were to orient Colombia’s operational staff working directly with weapons and munitions to international PSSM best practices. A total of 29 participants from the Colombian army, navy, air force, and police attended.
Also in FY2011, USAID’s Leahy War Victims Fund granted $3.2 million to implementing partners CIREC, Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (National Apprenticeship Service or SENA) and Fundación Arcángeles (Archangels Foundation) to provide rehabilitation and vocational services to landmine survivors.
During FY2011 Colombia made some progress toward developing a civilian demining authority that would allow international nongovernmental organizations to operate in Colombia and augment the established military-only emergency response teams funded by PM/WRA through the OAS. Nevertheless, more intensive efforts are needed to overcome remaining impediments.
More than 30 individuals, including mine-action personnel from Peru and Ecuador, officials from the Peruvian National Police and Peruvian Army, and Ecuadorian government officials and military officers attended the Peru-Ecuador Binational Workshop for Management in Humanitarian Demining in Lima, Peru in August 2011. The workshop was jointly sponsored by the U.S. Southern Command through the U.S. Embassy in Peru and the Peruvian government’s Ministry of Foreign Relations and mine-action office, CONTRAMINAS. Faculty from JMU’s CISR and College of Business provided management training as part of the workshop. Photo courtesy of CISR/Suzanne Fiederlein.
During a brief conflict between Peru and Ecuador in 1995, border regions on both sides were heavily mined, especially in the provinces of El Oro, Loja, Mornoa-Santiago, and Zamora-Chinchipe on the Ecuadorian side of the border. These mined areas have hindered economic development in the region. With U.S. assistance, the development of a common demining effort strengthened the relationship between Ecuador and Peru. In addition, Ecuador is working to eliminate excess small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) and man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS).
From FY2000–2004, the U.S. Government provided more than $5 million in funding to support lowland coastal demining efforts. In FY2011, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $500,000 to the Organization of American (OAS) States to procure replacement humanitarian-demining equipment for Ecuador.
In February 2011, at the request of the U.S. Military Group in Quito, the SA/LW Program of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) assessed the physical security and stockpile management practices and procedures at Ecuador’s storage facilities. In the Galapagos Islands, the team worked with Ecuador’s Defense Forces to assess the condition of recently recovered WWII ordnance, while in Quito, the team assessed the facilities of Ecuador’s National Police. The objectives of this mission were to provide recommendations on the safe storage of arms, ammunition, and explosives, while also outlining security priorities for implementation.
The Presidents of Ecuador and Peru meet with Peruvian deminers at Chiclayo, pledging cooperation on demining. Chiclayo is the site of a training center funded by PM/WRA. Photo courtesy of Ed Trimakas, PM/WRA, U.S. Dept. of State.
Also in FY2011, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Research and Development (HD R&D) Program, in cooperation with the National Demining Center of Ecuador, the Ecuadorian Army Demining Command, and the OAS continued a technology evaluation of Long-handled Tools, valued at $7,000, along the Ecuador-Peru border. The hand-held power tools are a logistically sustainable and efficient system that assists deminers with the clearance of access lanes in the dense jungle. Additional technology—an orbital sifter and crusher—valued at $235,000 began operations in FY2011 to clear mines from a dry riverbed. The low-metal mines are dispersed among mine-sized rocks, which are themselves capable of triggering standard mine detectors. The equipment sifted soil from 7,700 square meters (almost two acres) of soil. To learn more about the U.S. Department of Defense’s Humanitarian Demining Program, visit http://humanitarian-demining.org.
Peruvian Air Base No. 6 in Chiclayo, showing where Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa visited deminers who attended the U.S.-funded demining school in nearby Pimentel. Photo courtesy of Dave Bruce/RONCO.
The five Peruvian departments of Amazonas, Cajamarca, Loreto, Piura, and Tumbes were mined during a brief conflict between Peru and Ecuador in 1995. The most heavily-mined section of the border is the area known as the Cordillera del Condor, which was the center of the border conflict. Anti-personnel mines were also emplaced during the 1980s and 1990s to protect critical infrastructure against attacks from subversive movements, such as Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path, or SL). More recently, SL has used homemade improvised explosive devices and booby traps against security forces in the drug-producing Apurimac and Ene River Valley. In response to these challenges, Peru’s humanitarian mine-action (HMA) goals include increasing the security and social harmony in areas affected by landmines and offering assistance to mine victims.
From FY2000–FY2005, the U.S. Government granted $5 million in HMA funding to clear contamination remaining from internal conflicts between 1980 and 2000. From FY2008–FY2010, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $4,820,000 to further build national capacity and support clearance efforts and victim assistance.
In FY2011, PM/WRA provided $2 million for nonproliferation, anti-terrorism, demining, and related programs as follows:
• The Polus Center for Social and Economic Development (Polus) received an HMA operational grant in Peru. Polus awarded a subcontract to RONCO Consulting Corporation to fund three technical experts for 12 months to develop national capacity. One technical expert was assigned to the Centro Peruano de Acción contra las Minas Antipersonales (The Peruvian Mine Action Center or CONTRAMINAS), the second to the training centers at Bagua Grande and Chiclayo to support military and police-force training, and the third to monitor field operations.
• Polus was also awarded a grant for a two-year victim-assistance survey and rehabilitation package. The survey of needs was to find scattered mine victims in Peru dating back many years and provide physical, social, and economic assistance to victims.
The illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) heightens regional instability and contributes to increases in violent crime in the Caribbean region.
In efforts to combat trafficking of SA/LW in the region, in FY2011, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provided $725,000 to the United Nations Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLiREC) to fund the first part of a two-year project to destroy surplus, obsolete, and unstable SA/LW and munitions. The project also provided physical security and stockpile management (PSSM) for remaining stockpiles. In FY2011, UNLiREC focused on Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. In FY2012, PM/WRA plans to fund the second part of the project, in the Bahamas, Belize, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
In July 2011, at the request of U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) and the U.S. Department of State (DOS), the SA/LW Program of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) organized the Combating Illicit Trafficking of SA/LW in the Caribbean: Stockpile Management and Destruction Conference at USSOUTHCOM headquarters in Doral, Florida. The conference educated individuals who work directly with arms, ammunition, and explosives in international PSSM best practices. Conference attendees included representatives from Antigua and Barbados, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. The conference agenda also included presentations by PM/WRA; the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the Organization of American States; the U.S. Caribbean Command Implementation Agency for Crime and Security; and UNLiREC.
In addition, in FY2011, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Leahy War Victims Fund (USAID/LWVF) provided $1.5 million to Handicap International and Healing Hands for Haiti to design and implement a rehabilitation training program for 30 Haitian technicians. USAID/LWVF also granted $500,000 to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in the 2012 election in the Dominican Republic.
SA/LW Program in Latin America
Precipitated by the transnational drug trade, small arms and light weapons (SA/LW) trafficking continues to cause violent crime and instability throughout Latin America. In response to these challenges, the SA/LW Program of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) organized the following physical security and stockpile management (PSSM) seminars throughout the region in FY2011 to educate senior decision-makers in international PSSM best practices:
• Belize—From 4 February–11 March 2011, a PSSM executive seminar was conducted for four participants at the request of the U.S. Military Liaison Office.
• El Salvador—At the request of U.S. Southern Command and the U.S. Military Group in San Salvador, a PSSM executive seminar was organized in November–December 2010 in El Salvador. Additionally, two PSSM technical seminars were conducted, one in December 2010 and the other April 2011. A total of 90 participants attended the three seminars.
• Paraguay—In March 2011, at the request of the U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation, a PSSM executive seminar was organized for 23 participants in Paraguay.
In addition, at the request of the U.S. Military Liaison Office and Guyana’s Defense Forces, the SA/LW Program of DTRA conducted an assessment visit to Guyana in May 2011. The team assessed PSSM practices and procedures used at a newly constructed ammunition storage facility. They also provided recommendations on the safe storage of ammunition and explosives and outlined security priorities for implementation.