HomeNewsAnalysisFARC Landmines Hit Coca Eradication Efforts
ANALYSIS

FARC Landmines Hit Coca Eradication Efforts

COLOMBIA / 22 AUG 2011 BY CLARE FORSYTHE EN

Questions over the effectiveness of coca crop eradication have an extra dimension in Colombia, where FARC rebels guard drug crops with landmines.

Antipersonnel landmines have traditionally been a key feature of the military tactics of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC). There is evidence that, following a tactical shake-up in 2009 by leader Guillermo Leon Saenz Vargas, alias “Alfonso Cano,” which saw the group revert to more traditional guerrilla methods of attack, this weapon is being increasingly deployed as a means to protect coca crops, as well as to attack and demoralize the armed forces.

Colombian security forces have discovered a number of stockpiles of explosive devices this year, including the seizure of 683 landmines belonging to the FARC in Antioquia, a north-central province which is currently the most mine-affected department in Colombia. In an interview earlier this year the head of the armed forces warned the country was “full” of landmines.

The increased deployment of landmines is having a marked impact on a particular sector of the civilian population -- those employed under the government’s PAICMA program of manual eradication, which was established in 2006 and involves paying civilians to enter plantations of illicit crops and manually destroy them.

The program has been strongly criticized by NGOs such as CCCM (Colombian Campaign to Ban Landmines) as it involves sending poorly trained civilians into areas with a high probability of landmine presence. According to the group, this violates the Colombian government’s commitment to Article 5.2 of the Ottawa Convention, in which it vowed to ensure the “effective exclusion” of civilians from areas known to contain landmines. According to CCCM, coca eradicators accounted for approximately one third of all civilian landmine victims so far this year.

The trend of using mines as a means of protecting coca plantations seems to be supported by official statistics published by PAICMA, which revealed that 129 victims of landmines during eradication processes were registered over 2008 and 2009, showing an almost five-fold increase of the 27 victims reported over 2006 and 2007. Furthermore the victim rates show no sign of decreasing, given that the number of landmine-related accidents registered last year was even greater than the figure reported for 2009.

Whilst government efforts to clamp down on coca farming have undoubtedly seen positive results (the area of illicit crops has fallen from 187,000 hectares (2002) to 67,000 (2011) according to a UN report), it is not clear how much of this is due to eradication programs and how much to other factors, such as increased security in coca-growing regions. Serious questions have been raised about the effectiveness of coca eradiction, both manuel and aerial, in persuading farmers to give up illegal crops. The civilian cost of manual eradication is undeniable, and seems likely to worsen if the FARC continue to increase their use of landmines in areas of coca production.

Peru's new president, Ollanta Humala, recently suspended coca eradication efforts, saying that his government would evaluate the program's success. Peru has suffered violent clashes between state forces and coca farmers over forced eradication programs, and UN statistics show that the area under coca cultivation has steadily increased in the last few years despite government efforts. It remains to be seen if the Colombian government, in light of increasing casualty rates amongst eradicators, might be forced to follow Peru’s lead and reconsider its coca eradication methods.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Tags

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 7 NOV 2019

FARC dissidents massacred a group of indigenous guards protecting a reserve in Colombia's southwestern department of Cauca, adding to the…

COLOMBIA / 13 JAN 2014

Authorities in Colombia have captured a Venezuelan national wanted for drug trafficking in the United States, in a case that…

COLOMBIA / 8 DEC 2016

Cocaine use and availability is on the rise in the United States for the first time in nearly a decade,…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…