Colombia, one of the heaviest mined countries in the world, has began efforts to remove land mines that completely cover the country. These buried explosives are remnants of the conflict between the FARC rebels and the Colombian government. The blame for such barbaric weapons are to be placed on both sides, as they rebels and government buried them in strategic locations. Nevertheless, efforts have been increasing since the peace accord was signed last year.
According to government statistics, more than 11,000 people in Colombia have been injured by land mines over the past decade; nearly 2,300 of those blasts were fatal. Fortunately, Handicap International is one of the groups setting up de-mining teams. A team from the nonprofit has been clearing a suspected minefield in the southwest of the country. Virgilio Cifuentes, a supervisor of the de-mining team, says leftover mines and even rumors of leftover mines have a chilling effect. “It creates fear in the whole community.”
These efforts have been a monumental effect on the communities in Colombia. Maria Yolanda Mosqueda, a resident of the area lives across the street from an empty lot that was rumored to have explosives buried in it. The place terrifies her, she says, and she wouldn’t risk walking through there. Before the lot was fenced off, kids used to cut through on their way to school. Once this patch of land is finally declared mine-free, Mosqueda says, it will be as if a weight is lifted from the whole community.
Perhaps the very slow process of de-mining the country is exactly what the country needs. It can be a healing process for the citizens, rebels, and the government. Working together, taking the steps needed to make the country the best it can be.