The Brazilian Navy is leading the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Group of Inter-American Monitors in Colombia (GMI-CO), tasked with assisting the Colombian national demining plan.
Brazilian Marine Corps Colonel Leonel Mariano da Silva Junior took on the leading role in a ceremony held in November 2022, at the OAS facilities in Bogotá, Colombia. Col. Leonel will be head of the GMI-CO until November 2024. He is the sixth Marine officer in that role, and also contributed to demining activities along the Nicaragua-Honduras border from 2001 to 2003.
“Brazilian participation in this type of mission brings humanitarian profit and support for Colombian development, but it goes beyond that by strengthening Brazil’s integration and solidarity with partner nations,” Col. Leonel told Diálogo. “The group’s service members provide fundamental support to achieve a land free of suspected mines, allowing socio-economic development and security for the affected populations.”
According to Col. Leonel, missions like this also provide professional gains for Navy personnel, who keep up with technological and doctrinal developments in the removal and destruction of landmines and improvised explosive devices. “These missions contribute to our troops’ performance in other scenarios where this training is relevant,” Col. Leonel added.
The Brazilian Navy’s initiative is part of the country’s adherence to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, known as the Ottawa Convention, which marked its 25th anniversary on December 3, 2022.
More than 160 countries adopted the treaty as part of the international community’s efforts to minimize human suffering due to armed conflict. However, according to the United Nations (U.N.), after 20 years of steady decline, the number of landmine victims worldwide began to soar again in 2017.
“According to the U.N., Colombia is one of the countries with the highest contamination of antipersonnel mines, improvised explosive devices, and failed ammunition in its territory and, consequently, has the highest number of victims,” the Brazilian Navy’s Marine News Agency reported. Since 1990, 12,254 people have been injured by landmines in Colombia, of those 2,344 have died, the Marine News Agency reported, based on U.N. data.
In the Americas, demining is a priority under the coordination of the OAS. “The OAS member states have adopted the goal of global elimination of antipersonnel landmines to transform the Western Hemisphere into an Antipersonnel Landmine Free Zone,” the OAS said.
The GMI-CO has been instrumental in protecting the Colombian population from unexploded landmines and artifacts.
“From 2016, with the great importance that such actions have taken in Colombia [today there are 5,500 people, between military and civilians, dedicated to this activity], the GMI-CO began to prioritize quality management of humanitarian demining in the country,” the Marine News Agency reported.
For Brazilian Marine Corps Captain Vinícius Araújo, who serves as a GMI-CO monitor since August 2021, the actions of the GMI-CO are essential to build capabilities and ensure work quality. “We share the responsibility of certifying who, military or civilian, is in a position to be accredited in the various functions within humanitarian demining,” Capt. Vinícius said in a Brazilian Navy statement.
In total, the GMI-CO has already participated in the certification of 8,000 military and civilian professionals. “The Colombian Army’s Humanitarian Demining Brigade and the Demining and Amphibious Engineers Battalion of that country’s Navy, as well as nongovernmental organizations contracted for the task [currently four] are among the institutions that the group monitors,” the Marine News Agency reported.