The Colombian government demanded this Tuesday that the illegal armed groups stop using antipersonnel mines because the main affected are civilians, a request seconded by ex-guerrillas “Francisco Galán” and “Felipe Torres” who are now peace managers.
Colombia is, after Afghanistan, the country with the most victims of antipersonnel mines in the world and according to data from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), at least 118 people were victims of these charges in the first quarter of the year, 45 , 6% more than in the same period of 2019.
“We demand that the armed groups do not continue installing antipersonnel mines. This scourge makes it impossible for our peasants to access their land or cultivate and (access) basic services such as health. This war crime must stop,” said the high Peace Commissioner Miguel Ceballos, in a statement released by his office.
The official assured that it is “very important” that the guerrilla of the National Liberation Army (ELN), the dissent of the FARC, and gangs like the Popular Liberation Army (EPL) and Los Caparros “remember that it is prohibited to install these mines because it’s a crime and a war crime. ”
Gerardo Antonio Bermúdez, alias “Francisco Galán”, and Carlos Arturo Velandia, alias “Felipe Torres”, joined Ceballos’s call, who last month were appointed by the Government as promoters of peace for an eventual rapprochement with the ELN, that were part of the past and with which the dialogues have been at a standstill since August 2018.
For Bermúdez, antipersonnel mines and other explosives are “all blind weapons that do not distinguish between peasants, children, indigenous people, students, soldiers or guerrillas. This is the evil industry of war explosives.”
The ex-guerrilla assured that “nobody stops to think about who the main victims are” and for this reason he considered that “it is hardly logical that the use of these devices (antipersonnel mines) must end, and must end now.”
Of the 118 mine victims in the first quarter of this year, 83 are civilians and 17 minors, while 35 are members of the security forces or illegal armed groups, according to the recent ICRC report.
PEASANTS, THE GREATEST VICTIMS
Regarding the damage caused by this type of explosives, Torres recalled that after Afghanistan, Colombia is the country with the most victims in the world, with more than 11,500 cases.
“Those who are most affected are the peasants because they are the ones who put the most victims and because it is their lands that are contaminated and must be displaced,” said the former guerrilla.
He recalled that the departments of Antioquia, Nariño, Meta, Cauca and Norte de Santander have been hit hardest by the mines, a problem that now also affects populations in Chocó, some areas of Arauca and Bolívar.
“This year (antipersonnel mines) have caused 118 victims, most of them civilians, and among these 17 children have been killed or mutilated,” said Bermúdez.
Lastly, the ex-guerrilla said that the persistence of the armed conflict, despite the peace agreement with the FARC in November 2016, is preventing humanitarian demining, but even so, the Government has decontaminated almost 400 municipalities.