De-mining Colombia

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

by Daniel Nardini

One of the most horrendous legacies of the Colombian civil war between the Colombian government and the former FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) is all of the landmines they planted during their 50 year conflict. The Colombian government for the most part knows where its mines are and is able to take them out. The FARC on the other hand has little to no idea where its mines all are. On top of that, many of the FARC’s bombs are not for the most part made of metal, so metal detectors cannot find them. The FARC used bottles, wooden boxes, and baby cartons to make landmines. These landmines have been killing people for decades. According to the Colombian government, landmines during the last ten years alone have injured 11,000 people—2,300 of them fatally. Many of those killed by landmines are farmers and children. In too many cases, farmers could not go out into their fields to plant crops because landmines were placed in them. Because of this alone Colombia’s agricultural sector had suffered for years. Landmines have killed or permanently maimed children who had inexplicably walked through fields or forests where landmines had been placed.

Now that the Colombian civil war is over, the process of digging up and getting rid of landmines can be pursued in earnest. This is what not only the Colombian government but also organizations like Handicap International has teams out in fields, forests and footpaths to look for and get rid of mines. The process is slow, but the de-mining teams do everything they can to work methodically and thoroughly to get rid of what landmines may be lurking just a few inches under the ground. Colombian farmers are also working in the fields to take out mines with the aid, advice and help from the Colombian government. Despite all of the efforts of the Colombian government, aid organizations, private Colombian citizens and even former FARC rebels themselves, landmines are still a serious hazard. Colombia remains one of the handful of countries with more landmines per square mile on earth. During the civil war, removing landmines was hazardous not only because the landmines might have been recently planted by either side, but also because Colombian de-mining teams might be attacked by FARC rebels. Now that there is peace, Colombia is trying to get rid of decades of mines laid out all over the country. It is this effort that Colombians hope will put this era of their history behind them.

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