Brazil Supports Demining Actions In Colombian Territory
By Andréa Barretto / Diálogo November 21, 2019
Colombia is one of the most contaminated country with antipersonnel mines, resulting in more than 11,000 victims since 1990, according to the Colombian government’s Office of the High Commissioner for Peace.
As of September 30, 2019, 356 Colombian municipalities were declared cleared of antipersonnel mines with the destruction or neutralization of 6,870 explosive devices. However, a lot more work still lies ahead. Multinational teams are conducting ongoing demining activities in another 189 locations in Colombia. Brazil is one of the nations that participate in this humanitarian mission to free Colombian territories.
“The contamination of areas by antipersonnel mines causes various political, environmental, social, and economic impacts to a country,” said Brazilian Marine Corps Colonel Dalton Araújo de Barros, head of the Inter-American Monitors Group of the Organization of American States’ Assistance Mission, headquartered in Bogotá, Colombia. “Brazil is a crucial contributor to reach the goals of Colombia’s Comprehensive Action Plan against Antipersonnel Mines.”
Brazil’s contribution to the process of decontamination in Colombia began in 2006. Currently, there are 20 Brazilian service members in Colombia, eight from the Marine Corps and 12 from the Brazilian Army (EB, in Portuguese).
The main role of Brazilian service members is to train and guide teams who deactivate mines in the fields, and to later evaluate the work done. “Our goal is to increase safety, reduce the number of accidents with antipersonnel mines and improvised explosive devices, fast-tracking humanitarian demining,” said EB’s Public Affairs Office.
According to Col. Dalton, Colombian antipersonnel mines are unique “because they are improvised and typically manufactured from plastic, glass, or metal materials to kill, hurt, or harm people.” This characteristic requires additional precautions during the demining process.
Explosive artifacts, strewn throughout Colombia, are a legacy of the 50-year war between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC, in Spanish) and the government.
In 2004, within the framework of the Ottawa Convention, Colombia initiated clearing operations on its territory. The convention, created in 1997 and signed by more than 150 countries, prohibits the use, storage, production, or transfer of antipersonnel mines, and seeks the destruction of this type of weapon.
Following the 2016 peace agreement signed with the FARC, efforts to clear up thousands of existing mines in Colombia have ramped up with the aim to free the country of landmines by 2021. In July 2019, the Colombian Office of the High Commissioner for Peace said that the country now struggles with artifacts that illegal armed groups (such as the National Liberation Army and the Clan del Golfo) have newly planted in an attempt to protect their coca crops.
Although Brazil does not have antipersonnel mines on its territory, the Brazilian teams have acquired experience through their work in missions to remove antipersonnel mines in the Americas since the 1990s, Col. Dalton said. “We participated in operations led by the Organization of American States in partner nations such as Peru, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Colombia,” he said.