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Explosive devices have claimed more than 200 lives since 2018

More and more victims. Anti-personnel mines, bombs and remnants of explosive devices have caused 229 deaths and 1,709 injuries in Colombia in the last five years, with a worrying upward trend; alarmed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in a report published on Tuesday.

Fewer incidents, but more victims

“We don’t see the explosive devices but we know they are there. It is a trauma, an invisible enemy”; told a press conference organized by the ICRC, Orlando Balcarcel, a peasant who survived the explosion of a mine in 2000 and who attended the presentation of the report. “I no longer remember the moment (of the explosion). I woke up 18 days later in a hospital (…) with my legs amputated”, says the 45-year-old man who moves thanks to prostheses.

Although around 7,000 Marxist FARC guerrilla fighters laid down their arms in 2017 after a peace agreement the previous year, the ICRC recorded “worsening humanitarian consequences due to the presence of explosive devices” during over the past five years. “We have seen that there are fewer incidents but that they cause more victims”; said Ana Maria Hernandez, member of the organization. “Between January and August, we recorded 462 (wounded and dead), a figure which indicates that this year could be the most affected by this phenomenon,” added a spokesperson.

Struggle for influence around drug trafficking

FARC dissidents who reject the 2016 agreement, members of the ELN guerrillas and other armed groups continue to use mines, homemade bombs and other explosive devices against the security forces and in their struggle to influence for drug trafficking revenues. The country remains by far the world’s largest producer of cocaine. In some rural areas, there is even “restricted access to fishing, hunting (…) and crops”, underlined Ana Maria Hernandez.

Orlando Balcarcel confirms that his neighbors have not set foot in the area where he walked on the mine more than 20 years ago. “We can no longer go to take care of the cattle or cultivate because we have this fear,” he lamented. Colombia is one of the countries most affected by mines, with more than 12,000 victims between 1990 and 2021; according to the Office of the Colombian High Commissioner for Peace.

Source: 20minutes

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