2011-12-01

Colombia: Antioquia fights against FARC landmines

A Colombian police officer searches for landmines, which have killed 1,935 people and wounded 7,597 over the past 21 years. Of the 9,532 victims, 3,584 are civilians, of whom 10% are children, according to the Presidential Program of Comprehensive Action against Antipersonnel Mines (PAICMA). (Carlos Duran/Reuters)

A Colombian police officer searches for landmines, which have killed 1,935 people and wounded 7,597 over the past 21 years. Of the 9,532 victims, 3,584 are civilians, of whom 10% are children, according to the Presidential Program of Comprehensive Action against Antipersonnel Mines (PAICMA). (Carlos Duran/Reuters)

By Alberto Rovira for Infosurhoy.com—01/12/2011

MEDELLÍN, Colombia – The numbers say it all: Landmines buried by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are still victimizing Colombians.

The explosive devices have killed 1,935 people and wounded 7,597 over the past 21 years. Of the 9,532 victims, 3,584 are civilians, of whom 10% are children, according to the Presidential Program of Comprehensive Action against Antipersonnel Mines (PAICMA).

And nowhere in the Andean nation are landmines a bigger problem than in Antioquia, the department with the highest number of victims.

From 1990 to September 2011, a total of 173 died and 822 were wounded in landmine explosions in Antioquia, which has a population of 5.6 million. This year, four died and 33 were injured as the result of FARC landmines, according to PAICMA-Antioquia data.

“Landmines are spread out mainly over rural areas, but also in places close to schools,” said Julián Rendón Cardona, the department’s secretary of government.

Of all the victims in Antioquia, 242, which includes the 46 who died and 196 injured, were under the age of 18, according to Action against Antipersonnel Mines (MAP), a departmental organization in charge of landmine risk prevention in Antioquia.

Juan Diego Figueroa’s life changed because of a FARC landmine. While working in a rural area in the Argelia municipality of Antioquia seven years ago, his machete hit a landmine.

In an instant, he lost his hands and an eye and was left with scars that will forever remind him of that terrible day.

“It’s hard for me to remember [exactly] what happened,” said Figueroa, 28-year-old father of two. “Life now is very hard for me.”

The government of Antioquia and MAP doesn’t want Figueroa’s tragic experience to happen again, which is why it’s made educating residents about landmines a top priority.

Here’s what MAP says one should do when finding a landmine:

  • ::Stay calm;
  • ::Tell others nearby you’ve found a landmine;
  • ::Retrace your footprints – taking one step at a time – and return to safety;
  • ::As you walk, pay close attention for any other explosive devices;
  • ::Once you are safe, alert neighbors, family members and authorities to what you’ve seen.

Population at risk

The government of Antioquia has doubled its efforts to inform the population about the danger of landmines.

“Through the ‘Let’s Take Care of You, Me, Us’ Program we contribute to reducing accidents [by landmines] among the civilian population and acknowledge the victims’ rights in priority municipalities of the department of Antioquia,” said Paola González, who coordinates education for the government of Antioquia’s initiative, which is managed by the Directorate to Assist Individuals and financed by MAP.

The initiative has led authorities to hold 56 training workshops in 49 of the department’s municipalities deemed to have the most landmines.

A total of 1,351 rural teachers, 259 public health professionals and several authorities from 1,226 institutions have been trained in prevention and how to treat landmine victims, González said.

“The teachers incorporated the ‘Let’s Take Care’ program into their everyday work to the point of inventing riddles and verses easy for their students to memorize,” she added.

“In the water or on the ground/Is where I might be/don’t dare touch me/because there will be an accident,” is one of the poems used to warn children of landmines.

“The advice for hiking around the forest has changed completely,” said William Gómez, a teacher from the Frontino municipality, where 9,504 of its 25,000 residents live in at-risk areas for landmines. “For example, we tell people if you didn’t drop it, don’t pick it up; or how to choose what paths to take.”

Gómez said in addition to landmine risk prevention, authorities also teach locals how to prevent being burned while processing sugarcane, being drowned when streams and rivers rise quickly and being buried under a landslide.

“We intervene in a practical way, with simple language,” said Luis Sepúlveda, an elementary school teacher who works in the municipality of Urrao, another locality in Antioquia where landmines are present. “The children talk about strange things that appear on the sidewalks, and that is where special care must be taken in prevention, since [landmines] look different, which is why education always must be kept up-to-date.”

The ‘Let’s Take Care’ Program has been so successful it’s being replicated in the departments of Tolima, Nariño and Chocó, González said.

Landmines, a public health issue

Antioquia government officials also have improved treatment for landmine victims; Figueroa, for example, receives psychological therapy and financial assistance.

One program, the “Local Assistance Route,” offers a protocol for treating landmine victims and was first used in the municipality of Valdivia, said Janet Sánchez, a MAP coordinator and nurse at the San Juan de Dios Hospital.

“In Valdivia, we are aware of 18 landmine fields,” Sánchez said. “When we get to the victim, we proceed with rescuing him or her, and transporting him or her to the health center in Valdivia, where a record is made of what happened. The victim’s family is directed to take the case to the ombudsman, who is in charge [beginning] the process to receive government aid.”

The program, which has received $4.538 billion pesos (US$2.269 million) in funding from the Antioquia government the past four years, also is being used to help victims in the departments of Santander, Nariño, Valle del Cauca, Cundinamarca and Meta, according to PAICMA.

The 2008 Individual Compensation Program mandates that victims of landmines and other explosive devices, as well as other kinds of attacks, have the right to treatment and compensation proportional to the injuries suffered.

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21 Comments

  • yesenia | 2012-01-29

    How painful this situation in our country, enough already, please.

  • paulo | 2012-01-28

    give some news about Cidade de Jaú.

  • brayan montero | 2012-01-28

    It is so sad to know that there is no one strong enough in Colombia to shut the FARC up... ???? The war in Colombia belongs to everyone but the government, don't keep quiet let's report everyone who commits evil remember that our children need a future cleansed of evil and of land mines God bless everyone

  • alvaro navarro ordóñez | 2012-01-28

    We have to put an end to the FARC, HOWEVER AND WHATEVER IT COSTS; OTHERWISE THOSE MENTAL CASES WILL CONTINUE MURDERING AND KIDNAPPING. THERE'S NO OTHER WAY, THE FARC ARE NARCO TERRORISTS!! THE WHOLE PLANET KNOWS THIS. THE FARC PROBLEM IS A PROBLEM FOR THE GOVERNMENT. LET ME SAY IT THIS WAY: "IT IS A CASE OF SELF DEFENSE" YOU HAVE A DANGEROUS CRIMINAL IN YOUR HOUSE, ARMED, YOUR WHOLE FAMILY IS IN DANGER, WHAT WOULD YOU DO? THAT'S WHEN YOU HAVE TO DECIDE: "EITHER YOU KILL HIM OR HE KILLS YOU, AND YOUR WHOLE FAMILY" "CHOOSE" NOT WITH CRIMINALS NO!!! YOU CAN'T NEGOTIATE, DON'T BE NAIVE!!

  • alvaro navarro ordóñez | 2012-01-27

    The criminal attitude of the FARC against the civilian population of Colombia is intolerable, therefore the government must radicalize, without any second thoughts, its persecution and capture of these mental cases. It is well known that Peace and tranquility are not negotiated and much LESS WITH NARCO TERRORISTS. If the Government doesn't let down its guard and if it doesn't stop going after those MURDERERS the End of the FARC is upon us!!

  • DEICY | 2012-01-26

    The FARC aren't the only terrorists, they too should engage in peace negotiations...!!!!

  • nelson | 2012-01-24

    These events are inhumane, with all due respect to other opinions, the human rights protections need to be more drastic, operate with international organizations, look for solutions, but as long as there is no social justice there will be no peace in this country

  • arsebasgt | 2012-01-24

    Thank you for the news

  • daniela lozada mazo | 2012-01-24

    Regardless, you have to at least respect the FARC.

  • edwin dario uribe leon | 2012-01-23

    What a tragedy for our beautiful country, whose beautiful people deserve better luck

  • Ara Villa | 2012-01-22

    Such pain!!!!

  • Franco Guerrero | 2012-01-22

    Solution: THE DEATH PENALTY to those who have sown these evils, if the death penalty were imposed in this Country not just for them but also for anyone who kills people in any way, making this Country bleed, all the problems would be solved but this is good business for everyone, Politicians, guerrilla fighters, hired Attorneys, Congress members and all the white collar thieves and even the Church is involved in this matter and there is no justification for these MORAL AND SPIRITUAL DEGENERATES they go to jail and we have to support them, giving them food and shelter and clothing, JESUS CHRIST said: "I have not come to change the laws, I have come to enforce them" : Matthew 10:34 says: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." and this frightens even the lowest priest up to the supreme pontiff. The Law clearly says Leviticus 24:17: "Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death." He who has ears must listen

  • EDGAR QUINTERO PERDOMO | 2012-01-22

    I was a victim of anti-personnel mines while I was researching an ecotourism project; it was beautiful, nice, pedagogical, inclusive, but those despicable and monstrous beings don't respect anything; we shouldn't have gone by there; there were signs that an armed body had been there, we don't know who; we shouldn't have gone by the same route as always, that was the mistake; be wise: look, observe, reflect, think; don't go on if you're not sure; the worst infamy of the war are the anti-personnel mines; it is inexcusable, cowardly, despicable and irreparable.

  • orlando pichardo | 2012-01-22

    I would like to know who supplies weapons to the FARC

  • Manuel Joaquin Chamorro M. | 2012-01-21

    The same thing happened in Nicaragua in the eighties and part of the nineties, I hope the Colombian government is able in the not too distant future to eradicate this scourge that has no friends or enemies, it's even worse when children are the victims of these barbarities. God enlighten the governmental leaders of Colombia to find a reasonable way to stop so much insanity brought on by the war.

  • Antonio | 2012-01-20

    That is how we Colombians are. We want to hurt anyone who doesn't fight back. This war of more than 50 years was started by the Conservative Party against the Liberal Party who were persecuted because they were liberals, the guerrilla struggle appeared with its communist ideals and what stopped being a fight for ideals turned into a fight to keep the power, but the power of weapons and Drugs. Like any business, it doesn't matter who falls. The FARC are in the business of terror and have no lack of support......

  • Nestor Pelaez Restrepo | 2012-01-15

    The Communist Party and the FARC are declared enemies of the capitalist system and of democracy therefore laws need to be created to close off all their positions of popular representation such as mayor's offices, governorships, communal action boards and positions such as teachers because they are an attack against the Colombian people. The narco-guerrilla bandits should just be fought with all the government's resources it doesn't matter if they are judges, priests or any profession they may have, all opportunities must be closed to them because Fascism is despicable and the methods used by the guerrillas are worse than Fascism and more cruel.

  • gustavo leclercq | 2012-01-10

    Why don't we hear a statement from the famous NGOs against these degenerates from the FARC. Why is it that each time one of these bandits are caught the media come out to say that the "alleged" bandits were captured. Might it be because of cowardly fear that they can't call them murderers?

  • luz elena | 2012-01-08

    speechless, the FARC are horrible

  • virginia saenz simancas | 2012-01-04

    Even though it's a good article I wonder CAN IT BE THAT ONLY 10% of the victims are children? It must be and if that's the case I give thanks to GOD for taking care of his little ones.

  • Gonzalo Bastilla | 2012-01-04

    May God shine his light on Colombia...!