Almost a year after the use of landmines was first reported in Venezuela, their deployment now appears a routine tactic for Colombian guerrilla groups operating in the country, especially in border zones.
In February, over 900 homemade explosive mines, made out of plastic containers and shrapnel, were decommissioned by Venezuelan Army forces in the Arenales district of the Apure province, bordering Colombia, according to information posted on Twitter by the head of the Venezuela Army’s strategic command, General Domingo Herández Lárez.
Hernández Lárez added that authorities discovered facilities used to manufacture explosives during operations targeting Colombian groups active in the municipality of Páez, Apure.
This followed a report on February 11 that eight Venezuelan soldiers had been killed by antipersonnel mines in Apure.
Initial reports of landmines in Venezuela came in April 2021 when President Nicolás Maduro blamed dissident groups formerly belonging to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) for planting them in Apure.
“Colombian armed groups have brought the practice of anti-personnel mines…to Venezuela. We have lost several Venezuelan soldiers to the anti-personnel mines […] they have brought their dirty, repugnant methods, from the Colombian war to Venezuela,” he said in a televised address at the time.
The presence of landmines in Apure is no coincidence. The border state has been the site of a bloody, multi-party conflict since late 2020 involving rival factions of FARC dissidents, the ELN National Liberation Army National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional – ELN) and the Venezuelan armed forces.
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Political turmoil and the ever-growing presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela will make it tough to reverse the spread of landmines, meaning the country faces a similar struggle to neighbors Colombia, hard-hit by landmines planted during decades of armed conflict.
Colombia continues to grapple with landmines despite a 2016 peace agreement that demobilized the FARC and opened the door to demining efforts. But demining in areas worst-affected by conflict has largely stalled and last year 152 people were killed or injured by mines nationwide.
Worse, the manufacturing and deployment of new landmines continues in Colombia, albeit on a level far below the peak seen in previous decades. In June 2021, the Bachidubi Indigenous community in the department of Antioquia warned that the ELN had planted new minefields around the community and that several people had been killed.
And according to the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation (Fundación Paz y Reconciliación — PARES), the Urabeños, also known as the Gulf Clan, have also recently used landmines in various parts of Colombia.
Colombia has received support from the United Nations and deployed plentiful troops and resources in its faltering attempts to rid the country of landmines.
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