Ex-foes Peru and Ecuador partner against a scourge of war: land mines
Some 41,000 land mines left over from a 1995 skirmish still litter the Peru-Ecuador border. The two nations' cooperative efforts to remove them is setting a global standard.
(Page 2 of 2)
Peru's demining training center – where Andía has already trained 10 Ecuadorean soldiers in demining techniques – is a key element of Contraminas, which focuses on not only eliminating the border mines but also on strengthening ties with Ecuador.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
A high-priority task
Espinoza said the goal is to fully integrate demining teams on both sides of the border to eliminate land mines by 2017. "We would like to have mixed teams, with Peruvians working in Ecuador and Ecuadoreans in Peru," he says.
The two militaries have exchanged maps of fields that were mined during the war and set agreements for military personnel crossing the border without diplomatic incident.
Demining is frequently a priority when politicians from the two countries meet and will be addressed during the fifth joint Peruvian-Ecuadorean Cabinet in 2012.
Demining on the border lagged until the end of the past decade. In the case of Peru, the local effort was first directed at eliminating antipersonnel mines around power lines and prisons, which were mined against Shining Path guerrilla attacks in the 1980s and early '90s. The demining of those sites has recently finished, allowing the deminers to be redeployed in the border regions.
Financial and territorial restraints
But even with the extra manpower, the work is painstakingly slow because of mountainous terrain, obsolete maps, and bad weather. Demining cannot be done in the rain, and vegetation has covered paths hacked out of the jungle 16 years ago to lay the mines.
"The maps are only referential, because of time and the conditions when the mines were planted at the height of the conflict," says Wilyam Lucar, general coordinator of Contraminas.
Mr. Lucar said about 1,000 mines have been eliminated in the past year, and the numbers will increase because new technology and the cooperation with Ecuador make it easier to pinpoint sites.
The issue now, he says, is money. The United States funded the training center and other components of Peru's program, but the money will dry up by the end of this year.
The Peruvian government has budgeted $1.5 million to continue the program. The US State Department in October provided $500,000 to Ecuador for demining through the Organization of American States. A similar amount was used earlier in the year to buy communications equipment, but that aid is also ending.
Yet deminers remain optimistic. "Our countries now have a lasting peace and there is more integration every day. It is our job to make sure that no one else gets hurt," Andía says.
Get daily or weekly updates from CSMonitor.com delivered to your inbox. Sign up today.