|A campesino who lost his right leg to a land mine.|
(Photo: Campaña Colombiana Contra Minas)
The explosion killed the two boys, making them the latest of the 11,000 people injured and killed by mines since 1990 in Colombia, the only nation in the Western Hemisphere where land mines are still being planted. Colombia is the world's third-most mined nation, behind only Afghanistan and Cambodia.
Colombia's guerrillas plant home-made land mines to protect themselves from pursuing soldiers and to guard coca leaf fields. But they don't return to remove the devices, so the mines remain waiting silently to kill or maim the unfortunate person (or animal) who steps on them.
So it was positive news ten days ago that the military and FARC guerrilla negotiators agreed to work together to find and remove the thousands of land mines after they sign a peace treaty.
|A mural on an abandoned Bogotá building |
memorializes land mine victims.
More than a few 'ifs' and 'buts' remain, however. The peace agreement looks likely, but is no sure thing. And neither is the obedience of the many guerrilla units to directives from their leaders. Meanwhile, the ELN guerrillas, who are not in the peace negotiations, presumably continue planting land mines. And, in any case, the guerrillas can't possibly know the locations of all of their mines, which a government official estimates are distributed across 688 municipalities.
The guerrillas fashion their mines using explosives sometimes laced with screws and feces in order to maximize the injuries and infection. These artesanal mines can wait underground for 50 years for someone to tragically step on the wrong spot.
Colombia may finally free itself of the nightmare of land-mines, but not for a while yet.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours