The 1995 border conflict between Peru and Ecuador started and ended in 1995, but its impact is still evident in both countries today. Landmines placed by both Peruvian and Ecuadorian forces along the jungle border still remain many years after the conflict. In addition, remnants of the Shining Path, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, continue to use landmines and improvised explosive devices in attacks on security forces in the region.
For the past 10 years, the United States Government and Peru Mine Action Center (CONTRAMINAS) have worked in collaboration to safely dispose of these abandoned or forgotten landmines. This program has been extremely successful, locating and destroying more than 3,900 landmines in Peru so far. I recently met Ed Trimakas, the Latin America Program Manager from the Office of Weapons and Abatement in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (PM/WRA), who gave me an inside look at how the United States and Peru have worked together to build Peru's capacity to safeguard local communities from these hidden hazards.
Ed explained the two parts of successful demining effort in Peru. The first effort is training members of Peru's military and National Police to develop national capacity at the national mine action center CONTRAMINAS. PM/WRA provides funding to RONCO Consulting Corporation which helped to procure trainers and equipment for more than 100 members of Peru's military and National Police and develop CONTRAMINAS facilities and national staff. The second effort is a victims' assistance program headed by the Polus Center for Social and Economic Development, an non-governmental organzation that supports community-based programs that promote social and economic opportunities for people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. Polus has worked to build the Instituto Nacional de Rehabilitacion, a rehabilitation center for locals who have been affected by landmines. Polus has also set up a vocational school to help hundreds of Peruvians injured by landmines learn new skills, allowing them to return to their daily lives and support their families.
Under the Conventional Weapons Destruction Program -- a partnership among the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- the United States has contributed more than $1.9 billion toward landmine clearance and conventional weapons and munitions destruction in 80 countries. U.S.-funded initiatives include:
• Mine clearance projects by 63 partner organizations, such as RONCO, the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and The HALO Trust;
• Mine-risk education to help endangered residents avoid injury by identifying potential hazards;
• Research and development into new demining technologies;
• Training local demining technicians in affected countries; and
• Supporting rehabilitation programs serving those injured by landmines and unexploded munitions.
Peru has set a goal of becoming landmine impact-free by 2017. Reaching this goal will require a combined effort of CONTRAMINAS and the deminers within the military and National Police, and as well as limited help from the United States. While the funding for the programs within Peru will end as early as 2012, the U.S. contribution has helped provide the resources to jump start Peru's demining program and develop the local capacity to sustain Peruvian efforts in the longer term.
In many countries around the world, landmines and unexploded ordnance inhibit development, disrupt markets and production, prevent the delivery of goods and services, and generally obstruct reconstruction and stabilization efforts. By removing these deadly hazards, we can help children, families, and communities to live in safety, as well as encourage the socio-economic development needed to further the larger goal of promoting peace and prosperity.
The United States is proud to be the world's single largest financial supporter of conventional weapons destruction programs, such as humanitarian demining, and to help countries like Peru build their own expertise and take a leadership role in solving the problem.