Wednesday, January 19

ELN: The nightmare of antipersonnel mines returns to the indigenous communities of Colombia | International

First, it was a 13-year-old indigenous boy who fell into an antipersonnel mine and lost one of his legs. It was in March of this year in Murindó, a municipality located in Urabá Antioqueño, in northern Colombia, and although the community launched alerts and denounced that the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN) had them surrounded by minefields, nothing happened. The last victim was a 22-year-old woman who died on June 20 after stepping on one of these devices. His two-year-old daughter was injured.

The death of Remilda Benítez Domicó, from the Embera community of Bachidubi, was not front-page news, nor did it go viral on social media, but it revealed the critical humanitarian situation experienced by at least 900 indigenous people who are among the bullets of the ELN and the paramilitary groups of the Clan del Golfo, and a reality: the return of antipersonnel mines and explosive devices to a country that has made efforts to clear thousands of hectares.

The Indigenous Organization of Antioquia reported that Remilda lost her life while doing agricultural work on an ancestral path and that her baby had minor injuries. “Alleged members of the ELN, through a pamphlet and WhatsApp audios, threatened the communities of Murindó with the reinstallation of this type of explosive devices, in response to an alleged paramilitary incursion, which would seek to regain armed territorial control of this area. that was historically occupied by the FARC ”, assured the OIA. The Army has also assured that it destroyed twelve explosive devices and carried out inspections in large areas of this community. The armed groups, however, reinstate them and prevent them from going out to hunt or plant their crops.

Remilda Benítez Domicó, from the Embera community of Bachidubi, died after falling into a minefield.
Remilda Benítez Domicó, from the Embera community of Bachidubi, died after falling into a minefield.

After the disarmament of the FARC guerrillas, today turned into a political party, there has been a fragmentation and rearrangement of the armed groups. Dissidents from that group, the strengthening of the ELN guerrilla and the presence of paramilitary groups linked to drug trafficking have besieged several rural populations of the country, such as this indigenous community.

But it is not only about antipersonnel mines, which are the best known. Between January and March 2021, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) registered 104 victims of explosive devices (anti-personnel mines, explosive remnants of war, thrown explosive devices and controlled detonation explosive devices). Of the total victims, 61 are civilians. Remilda joins the seven fatalities and her baby to the survivors who are left with serious physical, psychological and emotional consequences that will last throughout their lives. The ICRC indicates that the accidents occurred in nine departments of the country and that Cauca, Norte de Santander and Nariño account for 71% of the victims. The number of people who have been directly affected has tripled between 2017 and 2018 and the trend continued to increase in 2019.

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Colombia began demining in 2006, within the framework of the Ottawa Convention. Later, in the context of the peace process, joint cleaning programs were created between the Army and FARC guerrillas and it was possible to remove mines in areas that were previously prohibited. The Iván Duque Administration continued the process and according to its High Commissioner for Peace at the end of this year it will deliver 180 municipalities certified as free of suspicion of antipersonnel mines. However, it recognizes that 73 municipalities do not have the necessary security conditions to intervene and demining.

In the community where Remilda died, they beg the government of Iván Duque to “urgently reactivate the dialogue table with the ELN,” but this possibility has been closed since that armed group attacked a cadet school and left 22 dead in January. 2019. And it was even more buried after the car bomb attack on a military installation in Cúcuta, on June 15, for which they are believed to be responsible.

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