U.S. Humanitarian Mine Action Programs: Latin America
Chile's military government planted over 300 minefields in the 1970s and 1980s with more than 125,000 antipersonnel and a similar number of anti-vehicle mines along its borders with Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. A democratic Chilean government requested U.S. demining assistance in 2001.
Chile was admitted to the U.S. Department of Defense's Humanitarian Demining Program in December 2003. The U.S. Southern Command conducted the first humanitarian mine action training mission in Chile in May-June 2005, using U.S. Army Special Forces and Civil Affairs personnel augmented by medical specialists. They conducted training in basic humanitarian demining tasks, high-altitude medicine (presented by senior U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army medical officers) and medical evacuation topics, and mine action management (including the Integrated Management System for Mine Action).
Approximately $735,000 in Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster and Civic Aid funds were expended on the mission, including about $200,000 for equipment (demining and medical) and infrastructure upgrades to the Chilean demining classroom, which were
Colombia suffers one of the highest annual number of mine casualties in the world, and is the only country in Latin America where mines are still being emplaced (by illegal armed groups, not by the Colombian government). The Colombian government is beginning the process of conducting humanitarian demining operations of 32 minefields located around military installations.
In conjunction with the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, personnel from the U.S. Southern Command conducted a Program Assessment Visit (PAV) to Colombia in April 2005. Subsequently, the inter-agency Policy Coordinating Committee Subcommittee on Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) agreed to admit Colombia into the U.S. HMA program. A small quantity of Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster and Civic Aid funds was expended to support the DoD personnel who participated in the PAV. A follow-up visit to precisely determine Colombia's HMA requirements is scheduled for this year.
Twelve years of conflict between the Nicaraguan Government and rebel forces following the 1979 downfall of the Somoza regime saw the extensive use of landmines by both sides. In addition, post conflict demobilization left a surplus of small arms and light weapons, including man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), in the country. After more than a decade of substantial humanitarian mine action (HMA) efforts, the landmine threat to the Nicaraguan people has been significantly reduced. Unfortunately, civilians continued to discover some mined areas in 2004, and the Government has dedicated a demining platoon to respond to these discoveries.
Nicaragua receives mine action assistance from the United States through the Organization of American States (OAS)/Inter-American Defense Board. U.S. HMA aid in FY04 amounted to $1,536,000 to train, equip, and maintain demining teams, including mine detecting dogs, in the Northern Atlantic Autonomous Region of Nicaragua. In FY05, the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) also provided a $227,850 mine survivors assistance grant to the OAS for medical assistance and vocational training. Future PM/WRA funding for survivors assistance is a possibility. In FY05, the United States allocated $1,776,000 towards HMA in Central America. Of this amount, $1,274,000 funded a 100-man demining unit and a survivors assistance and rehabilitation program in Nicaragua.
Due to the high risk of unsecured stocks of MANPADS leading to possible theft and future use by terrorists against civil aviation, PM/WRA provided more than $300,000 to the Government of Nicaragua in a bilateral partnership program to destroy or better secure these systems.
U.S. financial and technical assistance has helped to improve public safety and health in post-conflict Nicaragua, and the Nicaraguan HMA program is becoming one of the best in the Western Hemisphere. The U.S. plans to end mine action assistance to Nicaragua in 2006, when the country is expected to become free from the humanitarian impact of landmines ("mine impactfree"), although landmine survivors assistance may continue through the U.S. Agency for International Development's Leahy War Victims Fund, in partnership with the Pan-American Health Organization.
PERU AND ECUADOR
The emergence in 1980 of two terrorist organizations, the Shining Path and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, led to more than a decade of internal conflict in which landmines were placed throughout Peru. The landmine problem worsened when border disputes between Peru and Ecuador escalated into a brief war in 1995, during which time the 79-kilometer frontier between the two countries was mined. The region's steep, difficult terrain, combined with frequent flooding, pose significant challenges to deminers on both sides.
The Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA) provides humanitarian mine action (HMA) assistance to both Peru and Ecuador through the Organization of American States (OAS)/Inter-American Defense Board (IADB). In FY04, Peru received $500,000 in assistance from PM/WRA to help continue its demining operations along the border with Ecuador, provide refresher training, replace equipment, and maintain two units of engineer technicians. The Peruvian Army duly completed impact surveys of the most heavily populated areas, and successfully cleared the departments of Tumbes and Piura. Ecuador was also given $500,000 for impact surveys and demining operations, resulting in complete recovery of the coastal provinces of El Oro and Loja. In 2005, PM/WRA contributed $263,985 more to support humanitarian demining in Ecuador. As demining teams begin working through less populated but more heavily mined and forested terrain, mine clearance is expected to proceed at a slower pace.
In 2004, Ecuador began planning for humanitarian demining operations in the difficult terrain of the Cordillera del Condor, on their southeastern border with Peru. This area presented major challenges in terms of logistics, soil type, and terrain. Working with the OAS and IADB missions to Ecuador (funded in great part by PM/WRA), the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) HMA program planned, coordinated and conducted the first regularly-scheduled conventional force HMA training mission, using Army engineers from the Puerto Rico Army National Guard as the principal forces, augmented by U.S. Army Reserve Civil Affairs personnel. The training mission focused on basic humanitarian demining skills and included the introduction of new mine detectors selected to compensate for the high metallic content of the soil in the area. Considerable emphasis was placed on reviewing operational procedures, medical support to the deminers, and quality of life improvements at the remote border outpost that still serves as their working base camp.
Approximately $507,000 in Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster and Civic Aid (OHDACA) funds were expended on the mission, including $150,000 for equipment (including mine detectors and customized deminers' tool bags) and infrastructure upgrades (renovation and equipping of four classrooms, including generator power plants) that were left behind at the conclusion of USSOUTHCOM's efforts there.
PM/WRA mine action support to Peru and Ecuador ended in FY04 and FY05, respectively, in accordance with the 2001 OAS Agreement that established the mine action programs in these countries, although other U.S. HMA programs such as survivors assistance may continue. Both Peru and Ecuador plan to become free from the humanitarian impact of landmines ("mine impact-free") by 2010.