Chile’s Military Removes Landmines Along Border With Peru

By Dialogo
October 01, 2012

SANTIAGO, Chile — Second Cpl. Arturo Rivera was deactivating mines along Chile’s northern border with Peru when an anti-personnel mine exploded, injuring him badly.
Fortunately, the 25-year-old soldier survived — but the Aug. 14 accident was only the latest reminder that after nearly four decades, the existence of landmines in the border region is an unresolved issue.
On May 26, an anti-personnel mine exploded near the border when a passing vehicle drove over it. According to Chilean police, the vehicle was apparently on its way to Peru, loaded with contraband. The blast, which killed one person, took place in the Chacalluta area, where only 16.2 percent of landmines have been removed, according to the National Demining Commission (CNAD in Spanish).
Even though such accidents keep happening, the process of landmine removal has been slower than anticipated. Under the Ottawa Convention, Chile was given eight years to deactivate the estimated 122,000 anti-personnel and 60,000 anti-tank mines installed mainly along its borders.
However, in late November 2011, President Sebastian Piñera requested an eight-year extension, giving the country until March 2020 to get rid of the mines.
Heavy flooding dislodges hundreds of mines
The problem became more acute following heavy rains in February, which caused the Lluta River to flood, dislodging hundreds of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines along the border with Peru. Two mines planted during the 1970s washed onto the Pan-American Highway, forcing authorities to close the road; soldiers later detonated the mines.
“This is a precise job,” Ximena Valcarce, acting governor of Arica and Parinacota, told ADN Radio. “It is very tedious and takes a long time.”
The arrival of Defense Minister Andres Allamand in Arica and the closure of the Chacalluta border pass underscored the seriousness of the Quebrado Escritos landmine emergency. Allamand said that during the last five years, special Chilean Army and Navy units had stepped up their mine removal operations.
Separately, Col. Javier Iturriaga, commander of the Rancagua regiment, said in a communiqué that the floodwaters had dislodged 157 landmines, including 15 anti-tank mines and 142 anti-personnel mines.
New legislation to compensate landmine victims
Chilean lawmakers will soon consider a proposed bill to help those injured by landmines.
“We have taken an additional step … to compensate victims of these devices,” Finance Minister Felipe Larraín told reporters. “This is what we have done, covering not only the obligations of the Ottawa Convention but those of the Oslo Convention, which deals with cluster bombs, and also with other international accords requiring countries with accidents originating from military explosives to provide a system of assistance.”
The proposed bill offers victims monetary compensation as well as educational grants, access to social and labor resources, and free medical and psychological care. Allamand is to explain the legislation to the Senate Defense Commission at an Oct. 2 hearing.
Sen. Guido Girardi, of Chile’s Party for Democracy, is urging that landmine removal be speeded up.
“We are in peacetime and there is no justification for the country’s population and especially tourists to be anywhere there are land mines. We ask Minister Allamand that this be a priority and that Chile become, in the shortest time possible, a country without land mines,” said Girardi. “We know it is expensive and difficult, but these risks are not justified.”
NGO: Landmines have killed 150 people since 1970s
The Chilean Army and Navy are the institutions in charge of landmine removal, while the president’s National Landmine Removal Commission is supposed to coordinate their activities in accordance with the Ottawa Convention. In addition, several private civilian firms in Chile remove landmines under authorization from the Ministry of Defense.
Col. Juan Mendoza, the commission’s executive secretary, said that “to date we have removed approximately 25 percent [of all mines], but many factors, especially climate and weather, have prevented us from moving at the speed we would have wanted.”
Some 150 people, including 70 civilians, have been killed or maimed since the landmines were planted, according to Centro Zona Minada, a non-governmental organization.
The NGO’s director, Elir Rojas Calderón, said at least 60,000 devices were planted in the Quebrada Escritos area alone. All told, he estimated, 100,000 anti-personnel mines, more than 60,000 anti-tank mines and “an undetermined number of unexploded or abandoned military explosives and cluster bombs” are scattered across six regions of Chile.
Rojas: Chile has “ethical obligation” to remove landmines
Chile, along with Argentina, Bolivia and Peru, has promised to comply with the Ottawa Convention, which prohibits the use, storage, production and transfer of landmines.
In Peru, said Rojas, more than 20,000 landmines were planted along electrical transmission towers and the perimeters of prisons. He said that in October 1973, then-President Augusto Pinochet — fearing an attack by Peruvian forces — ordered thousands of mines to be planted on Chile’s border with Peru.
“It was the same situation in 1978 during the Beagle Channel dispute in Chile’s extreme southern region, in the face of a possible attack by Argentina,” he said. “Areas bordering Bolivia and northern Argentina were later planted with landmines as well.”
Chile must comply with the Ottawa Convention, said Rojas, because it has “an ethical and legal obligation to eliminate the risk to people, the environment, wildlife and the country’s development.”
Thanks to "Diálogo" to share and show this information about landmines problem in Chile.. This month also is the 20º Anniversary of International Campaign to Ban Landmines with a important network of people, volunteers and professionals, NGOs and many others supporting our jobs everyday around the world.
The media have a important role because help to show a different topics on demining process in the world.
Thanks also to Oddete Magnet a very respected Journalist in Chile, excellent article.
Elir Rojas Calderón, Degree on Geography-Geographer
National Director of Landmines-UXOs Research Center (from 1998 working on humanitarian demining)
Chile MY PERSONAL OPINION IS THAT SHOULD CHILEANS DEACTIVATE ALL THE MINES THAT THEY INSTALLED UNDER THE PRETEXT OF 'SECURITY,' BECAUSE THOSE MINES GO AGAINST COUNTRIES AND INNOCENT HUMAN BEINGS. THE OPPOSITE WOULD BE THAT THE NEIGHBOR COUNTRY CONTINUES TO LIVE IN THE PAST AGE, WHEN THEY STOLE THE SEA FROM THE BOLIVIANS AND ENCLOSED IT TO ITS FATE, THE SAME THING THAT THE UNITED STATES MAKES WITH THE BROTHER COUNTRY OF CUBA. It is criminal to place anti-personnel mines in the territory, whatever it be. It is a pity that the previous Governments of Chile have maintained such a measure and the current one, after all this time just do it. It is a pity Mr. President of Chile. Hopefully nobody gets hurt, regardless of his/her nationality. Mr. Guido Girardi and all Communists and Socialists should be the first to go against Peru or Bolivia or Argentina in the event of armed conflict. These countries "Are not brothers," they are "Enemies" because they hate us to death, so is "An ERROR" to remove the mines that give us security and also protect us from drug traffickers. At least leave them until after the sentence from The Hague, where stubbornly once more our rulers delivered our sovereignty in a tray, so that other countries can determine whether it is ours or not. This is a completely stupid thing. We only must apply what our heroes wrote "BY REASON OR BY FORCE." It is a pity that so far mines have not been deactivated, despite the pledges to do it. Undoubtedly is something very expensive and takes a lot of time, but Chile has the moral obligation to comply by removing them. Otherwise denotes a remiss and negligent attitude. Despite the retrograde thoughts of some citizens, all of that was in times of imbecility. Incredible that in the 20th century exists in America a country so sadistic that is surrounding us Argentines, Bolivians and Peruvians with antipersonnel mines, cluster bombs that are forbidden by the Ottawa Convention. What is Chile afraid of? Wasn´t it enough to steal the sea from Bolivia and drown its industry in an unjust war supported by foreign powers? And to be in The Hague Court with Peru? Now they also want the Lauca River that originates in Bolivia. How deep is their aberrant ambition? Aren´t they afraid of making God angry and that He makes them disappear with a tsunami or earthquake because of their unfair treatment to their neighbors? This is great news, but for me however it is also true that good deeds do not involve good intentions. The Chilean Navy always took strategically... so, to take a long time to remove such anti-personnel and anti-tank mines is logical and desirable for this country. What this news just makes for this country is to get before the international community the position of a good intention. Very clear. How easy is to forget the threats from Argentina against Chile during the decade of the problems of Beagle. I will never forget the words of the Argentine Government at the time, that because it was contrary to their interests, declared completely null and void the arbitration award that voluntarily signed, pawning the honour of the nation. What honor are they talking about? Liars and hypocrites. What a disappointment so much ignorance to give a view about what they do not know noting... and worst of all, they judge I think that in these times of peace let´s eliminate these mines. Let´s feel a little bit of fear of our Creator. We are only in transit dear Chileans in this beautiful world. Giving back a piece of strip of sea to Bolivia solves this problem, as children of God. Correction: the Lauca River originates in Chile and arrives to Bolivia. The Silala River originates in Bolivia and comes naturally to Chile. Bye. THE MINES ARE IN CHILEAN TERRITORY AND MET THEIR OBJECTIVE AT THE TIME...OTHERWISE WE WOULD NOT BE SPEAKING FROM CHILE TODAY, THAT´S TRUE... SO THE PROBLEM OF MINES IS CHILE'S AND NO ONE ELSE... AND THE MINES SHOULD BE ELIMINATED AT THE SPEED THAT IS SAFER FOR PROFESSIONALS... AND THAT DRUG SMUGGLERS CONTINUE DYING FOR TRYING TO DESTROY THE YOUTH OF THE WORLD... FORCE CHILE. By what I've seen by reading some comments, maybe someday the mines laid in the Chilean borders can be removed, but it is sad to observe that the most dangerous mines that can never be removed, are the ones self sown in the hearts of some Chileans and that always remain dangerously dormant and ready to explode under any pretext. To make a call to reflection would be futile, and we only have to expect that when those mines explode do not harm those who are close to them, whether they are family or friends.

Sincere and fraternal greetings to all those Chileans possessors of sanity and good faith.
Hugo E. Cáceres. How easy it is to criticize another country! Don´t you remember perhaps that the Argentine army planted anti-personnel mines and anti-tank mines in the plains of the Falklands Islands, during the 1982 war? There are thousands of photos on the Internet, where you see signs that say "Minefield" and English soldiers are taking them out very slowly, because of the danger they pose.
If Chile sowed mines in its territory, it did so because an Argentine general, on the balcony of the Casa Rosada, said "today it´s the English and tomorrow the CHILEANS"... or you don´t want to remember?
And do not come to me saying that that was said by a coup Government. EACH country is responsible for its foreign policy, regardless that governments are Democratic or DE FACTO, because all documents that leave the Government House and connect with other governments, are legal.

And finally, when Peru acquired 400 Russian T-55 tanks, more than 20 Mig-29 fighters and 22 Shukoy fighters and 600,000 AK-47 Kalashnikov rifles, it was to attack Chile, during the Government of Juan Velasco Alvarado, but at the last minute, it seems that Peruvians thought better and aborted the attack, which was scheduled for the day 11.06.1975.

Regarding that, it reminds me of "others" that also "backed off" at the last minute, in the Beagle Channel, blaming the weather in the area of Island of the States and they RETURNED and they did not give battle to the SQUADRON of the Navy of CHILE, that also was in the same SECTOR, but by strange COINCIDENCE, it was not affected by the so-called bad weather… Hadn´t it been another thing? The same way that the FLOMAR hid during the FALKLANDS war and did not give battle.
Chile is a country too important for Latin America. All of us must take care of it and admire it! And anyone who says otherwise is a hypocrite. It is extremely necessary that Chile remove its mines, they cause so much harm to locals and foreigners; we live in a new era, we should all be united, the entire America against hunger, poverty and all diseases that are still to come. All united to fight society's curse. It is understood that Chile is still keeping its mines at the border with Peru:
1) Because it is afraid to lose the lands that were once Peruvians
2) Because it doesn't have a more human and intelligent way to avoid smuggling
3) Because it doesn't care at all about the lives of the Peruvians who perished during the explosion of such mines
4) Because it lost the map with the location of the mines and no one wants to assume responsibility of what might happen in the future

A) none of the above (I am Chilean)
B) All of the above (I am Peruvian) Chile and Perù
hired the services of a Norwegian company expert in mines, who is removing military artifacts on our common border. It is possible that the same procedure take place with Bolivia y Argentina. Gone are the days of nationalist speeches and big talks that triggered the installation of the mines at the borders. Argentina, Casa Rosada, Galtieri: today the Englishmen and tomorrow the Chileans. The crowd screamed ecstaticly: "Tero, Tero, Tero, today the Englishmen and tomorrow the Chileans." Perù Velasco Alvarado : We will recover the the lost territories. Bolivia: Waiting for the backlash moment. Today things are different : Chile and Argentina, insurmountable relationships, unforeseen military relationships; Argentine ships modifying their missile systems in Talcahuano, Military Force Southern Cross (Cruz del Sur): 17 thousands millions of Chilean investments. Peru: intense commercial interchange with Chilean advice in the economical and social aspects, with investments and social laws. The exception is Bolivia, who blames Chile for all its issues. I am writing from the center of Bolivia, addressing the issue of the sea of Bolivia; I am aware of the Bolivian way of thinking, I always talk to many people from that country about the maritime subject, the Bolivian resident is simple and grateful, like the Chilean, once Chile gets closer, it will be easier to initiate a process of integration; both countries should start building strong friendship bonds, commercial, academic, and cultural agreements, this should be the strategy of the Chilean State and Bolivian State, based on mutual trust and more than respect, the care on each side, the world nowadays doesn't fix its problems with weapons, it fixes its problems by giving more food to its people and filling the pockets of its residents with money, the use of weapons only creates resentment and insecurity between brothers which in the future can cause insecurity and new conflicts of war without solving anything; for example Bolivia and Chile need each other, in Bolivia there is gas and abundant natural resources, on the other hand Chile has ample coastlines of sea and beach that Bolivia wants, so it’s only matter of being willing and making progress in consolidating the diplomatic relations, thank you.