SANTIAGO – Chile has completed the removal of an additional 31,000 land mines along its northern border with Peru, the Defense Ministry said.
“The efficacy of the mine-clearance work by the armed forces is apparent in the numbers: out of 181,814 landmines planted in different areas of the national territory, 130,497 have already been destroyed in the existing mine fields,” Defense Minister Jose Antonio Gomez said Thursday in an area known as Pampa Concordia.
Chile has destroyed 72 percent of its land mines in keeping with its commitments as a signatory to the Ottawa Treaty, which provides for the elimination by 2020 of all anti-personnel and anti-tank explosive devices along the country’s northern and southern borders.
“This proves that Bolivian President (Evo Morales) is lying when he says we’re not complying with something as important as Chile’s international commitment to demine our borders,” Gomez said.
The 13 fields cleared of more than 31,000 landmines, which were removed manually or mechanically, are located 12.3 kilometers (7.6 miles) east of the mouth of the Quebrada Escritos – an intermittent stream in the far-north Arica and Parinacota region – and cover an area of roughly 1.7 million sq. meters (441 acres).
Chile’s Congress is debating legislation that would compensate victims of anti-personnel mines in compliance with the Ottawa Treaty, and Gomez said the government hopes to “provide a pension to those affected by the situation.”
The Association of Victims of Anti-Personnel Mines has thus far documented 174 victims, not including Chilean army soldiers injured by the explosive devices.
Amid escalating regional tensions in the early years of Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-1990 dictatorship, Chile planted land mines along its borders with Peru, Argentina and Bolivia.