FARC and ELN land mines In 1994, land mines killed or injured a person every 20 minutes in the world. Today, land mines kill or injure 10 people every day, Paul Heslop, the program director of the UN Mine Action Service, said during a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland on April 3. “The battle against mines is being won,” Heslop said. “However, we must continue working to completely eradicate these weapons.” Colombia and other Latin American countries are not alone in facing threats from land mines. More than 65 million land mines threaten the lives of people in 56 countries around the world, José Miguel Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) said during the Global Conference on Assisting Landmine Victims in Medellin, Colombia on April 4. The OAS has developed demining activities in Central America, a region where after 19 years of work, the eradication of these devices has been completed, Insulza said. “The task of removing thousands of mines in Central America seemed impossible in 1991. The completion of demining operations in Nicaragua was the pinnacle of our efforts,” Insulza said. “ In 2010, we could declare Central America as a landmine-free territory. This means that it can be done.” The Colombian government has been moving forward with all actions to ensure rights are respected in affected communities, promoting humanitarian demining, comprehensive victim assistance, and mine risk education, the director of the Presidential Program of Comprehensive Action against Anti-personnel Mines, Daniel Ávila Camacho told reporters on April 5. People in rural areas of Colombia have been disproportionately killed and injured by land mines placed by terrorist and criminal groups. “We have suffered this scourge for decades with devastating effects on the population, especially the sometimes invisible rural population, where women are the most affected,” Colombia’s newly appointed representative to the United Nations, Maria Emma Mejía, said at the UN on April 4 during the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. In the 1980s, the FARC and the ELN drastically increased their use of land mines. These groups used land mines to terrorize the civilian population. Between 2007 and 2013, Colombian security forces destroyed more than 19,600 domestically-manufactured, according to Lt. Col José Reinel Herrán Villalba, director of the National Humanitarian Demining Center Against IEDs and Mines (CENAM) of the National Army of Colombia. The CENAM director reported the destruction of the mines while participating in an April 3 panel discussion, “Keeping the Momentum of Mine Action” at UN Headquarters. In 2012, the Armed Forces of Colombia reported that two municipalities, San Carlos, Antioquia, and El Dorado, Meta, were mine-free, “which demonstrates the effectiveness of national capacity efforts,” Herrán Villalba said. Peru’s demining efforts Peru’s security forces are striving to remove all land mines from the country by March 2017. The Army of Peru has disabled more than 7,500 so far. Of that number, 6,500 mines were deactivated during the administration of President Ollanta Humala, who was elected in 2011, according to Ahora. A land mine costs three dollars (USD), while disabling a land mine costs the country about $1,000 (USD). About 15,000 land mines remain in Peru, Carlos Manuel Gil Montes Molinari the director of security and defense of the General Directorate for Multilateral and Global Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, told Ahora on March 28. On the border between Chile and Argentina, there are about 10,000 mines, Mendoza Mora said. Chile is also working to eradicate land mines. In 2013, the National Demining Commission and the Ministry of Education launched a campaign to inform the public about explosive devices and how to prevent land mine injuries. In Magallanes, there are about 57,000 anti-tank mines, a cluster munition contaminated area, and an unknown number of unexploded military ordinances, the director of the civil organization Centro Zona Minada, Elir Rojas, told Diario UChile in October 2013. In May, 2011, there were 363,000 land mines throughout the country, according to the National Demining Commission of Chile. Authorities have destroyed at about 192,000 of those mines. The governments of Colombia, Peru, Chile and Argentina are working hard to remove dangerous land mines. The devices – many were deployed by terrorist and organized crime groups — have killed or injured thousands of people in those countries. Security forces in those countries have destroyed more than 200,000 land mines in recent years. The governments of Colombia, Peru, Chile and Argentina “are on track” with demining activities, said Carlos Mendoza Mora, director of Strategic Projects Consulting, a private security firm in Mexico City. Colombia has the world’s second highest number of land mines, second only to Afghanistan. From 1990 to 2014, explosive devices in Colombia wounded or killed an estimated 10,657 people, according to the website Accion (Actions Against Mines). About 80 percent of the victims were killed, and about 20 percent were wounded. The victims included more than 6,300 military personnel and more than 4,100 civilians. Land mines are a global problem By Dialogo May 30, 2014 Protecting civilians The high cost of locating and disabling land mines is a challenge for national governments. Because land mines are spread out over large geographic areas, it often takes longer to locate and dismantle them than originally projected, Mendoza Mora said. In addition to destroying land mines, Latin American governments should remain vigilant about educating the civilian population about areas which are dangerous because they contain land mines The Armed Forces of the countries which are engaged in demining efforts are working hard to protect the civilian population, the security analyst said. “The Armed Forces are working for safety in everyday civil society. All soldiers are putting their integrity and life on the line in order to achieve the objectives,” Mendoza Mora said. “Society should recognize the military’s efforts.”
By Dialogo October 28, 2015 Uruguayan Military officials recently taught 30 journalists and social communication students how to prepare for dangerous situations they might encounter while covering overseas peacekeeping missions. “Journalists in Mission Areas,” a program conducted by the National Peace Operations Institute of Uruguay (ENOPU, for its Spanish acronym), included representatives from the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and was held in Montevideo and Lavalleja from September 14-17. The journalists – among them reporters, editors, and news camera operators – also learned what Troops experience while serving in overseas peacekeeping missions. “I consider the inclusion of media professionals in the work of the United Nations of particular importance so that they can see the work that the UN does and can draw their own conclusions from personal experience, which is, without a doubt, a crucial way to mold opinions,” said Colonel Carlos Frachelle, ENOPU’s director. “The main goal around which this course is structured is to make sure that civilians are as prepared as military personnel are when it comes to matters of peacekeeping missions.” The course was last offered in 2011, Col. Frachelle said, adding military officials “decided the time was ripe to offer it again. There is still much left to do when it comes to protecting the security and the lives of professionals who are so valuable to society.” A comprehensive training program The four-day program covered a wide range of topics on what Uruguayan soldiers experience on peacekeeping missions, including the deployment of troops on demining operations; security practices and preventative health measures; and the type of equipment Soldiers use in the field. It culminated with a 36-hour field exercise in Military Camp No. 6, Abra de Castellanos, where journalists, students, and instructors stayed overnight. In compliance with the ENOPU’s requirements, the course included practical training for participants at the camp’s Armory and Mechanical Training Center. Instructors taught journalists and students the best ways to respond to chemical attacks, how to conduct evacuations, and how to use night vision goggles and protective gear. “The permanent use of one’s protective helmet and bulletproof vest also facilitated the immersion of participants into an operation-like environment, since such equipment is required on a daily basis during peacekeeping missions,” Gerardo Carrasco wrote in an article for the newspaper Montevideo Portal . “Those who participate in them must learn to have them on at all times, as if they were a second layer of skin.” The Air Force taught some of the journalists the proper way to board a Military helicopter, before taking them on a ride. “We journalists were afforded the opportunity to face the challenges that those on peacekeeping missions encounter on a small scale,” Carrasco wrote. “We also took note of the numerous details that those on such missions have to make sure they notice since they could make the difference between life and death. An example of this could be knowing how to board a helicopter or armored vehicle in the safest and fastest way possible.” The program is well-known among military officials and journalists throughout Uruguay. Historically, “Uruguayan reporters have been invited to travel alongside the Military and to stay on the mission’s military bases, offering journalists the opportunity to access places and settings which would have otherwise been extremely difficult for them to have visited,” Carrasco wrote. “It gives credibility to the freedom with which we chroniclers work in the field wherever there are Uruguayan Military contingents,” he continued. “It is a testament in support of our work. In fact, the only limits that the Army has put on journalists are those relating to security concerns in conflict zones. They want to avoid having any reporter become a martyr for their profession due to the pure lack of knowledge of the risks that might exist in mission areas.” Uruguay’s history of participating in peacekeeping missions Training troops and journalists for their respective roles in overseas peacekeeping missions is important for a country that is active in such operations, as the country has been sending soldiers to serve as peacekeepers in regional conflicts since the late 1920s – well before the UN was founded in 1945. Uruguay, with a population of about 3.4 million, is considered the world’s leading provider of peace forces per capita, and 90 percent of the service members in the Uruguayan Armed Forces have or will participate in a foreign mission. The country became more active in peacekeeping operations in 1982, when it deployed a contingent of National Army drivers to the Sinai Peninsula as part of the Multinational Force and Observers, which was established as part of the Camp David Accords between Egypt, Israel, and the United States. In 1998, Military authorities created the Army’s National Peace Operations School (EOPE), which eventually became the ENOPU, and includes all three branches of the Armed Forces. As of January 31st, there were 1,459 military and police personnel working in UN peacekeeping missions around the world, including the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) –even though the Uruguayan contingent was reduced in January 2015–, the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), and the UN Operation in the Ivory Coast (UNOCI), according to the UN report “Troop and Police Contributors.”
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Former motor racing champion Michael Schumacher’s condition has improved slightly after an operation to relieve pressure on his brain, his doctors say.They said a scan carried out after an overnight operation indicated that he was “better than yesterday”, but he was still “not out of danger”.The seven-time Formula 1 champion suffered head injuries on Sunday in a skiing accident in the French Alps.The 44 year old is in a medically induced coma at a hospital in Grenoble.An initial scan on Monday night showed “an improved situation” and indicated a window of opportunity for a second operation, doctors said.The family took the “difficult decision” to give consent for the procedure, and doctors operated on Schumacher for about two hours. A subsequent scan revealed a “slight improvement”.”We can’t say he is out of danger but… we have gained a bit of time,” said Dr Jean-Francois Payen. “The coming hours are crucial.”All the family is very much aware that his state is still sensitive and anything can happen.”Doctors said it was impossible to give a prognosis for his condition in the coming days and months.’Extremely shocked’ Schumacher had been skiing off-piste with his teenage son when he fell and hit his head.His manager, Sabine Kehm told reporters that his helmet cracked on impact.”It looks like probably that initiating a corner, he was hitting a stone which he had not seen and was catapulted down on a rock,” Ms Kehm told reporters.”That does not mean that Michael was travelling at high speed. He was not too fast,” she added.Messages of support have come from around the world. A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she and her government were, like millions of Germans, “extremely shocked”.”We hope, with Michael Schumacher and with his family, that he can overcome and recover from his injuries,” the spokesman said.Former Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa, who recovered from life-threatening head injuries he suffered at the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, wrote on Instagram: “I am praying for you my brother! I hope you have a quick recovery! God bless you, Michael.”On Monday some fans had gathered outside the hospital in Grenoble.Nuravil Raimbekov, a student from Kyrgyzstan who is studying nearby, described Schumacher as an inspiration. “I’m worried, of course… but I still hope, and I will pray for him,” he said.Schumacher is held in a great deal of affection in the area, says the BBC’s Imogen Foulkes in Grenoble. He is seen as a kind and generous man who has done a lot for charity.The former champion, who turns 45 on 3 January, retired from F1 for a second time in 2012.He won seven world championships and secured 91 race victories during his 19-year career.The driver won two titles with Benetton, in 1994 and 1995, before switching to Ferrari in 1996 and going on to win five straight titles from 2000. He retired in 2006 but managed to recover and made a comeback in F1 with Mercedes in 2010.After three seasons which yielded just one podium finish, he quit the sport at the end of last year.