OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza participated on Friday in Colombia in a ceremony commemorating the International Day against Antipersonnel Mines, where he described the effort and commitment of OAS to eradicate the scourge and bring rehabilitation to survivors as a high priority.
Our greatest tribute to the children, women and men injured by landmines is to bring about their physical and psychological recovery and social and economic reintegration, and thus enable them to have a future and hope for tomorrow and realize that such tragedies never happen again said the Organization of American States Secretary during a ceremony in Medellin next to Colombian Vice-President Angelino Garzón, UN representatives, non-government organizations and mines' victims.
Insulza added that despite the many tragedies due to the use of these weapons, more than 65 million landmines threaten the lives of citizens in 56 countries of the world, including Colombia. He highlighted Colombia is the only country in the Americas where groups outside the law continue to spread these deadly and treacherous explosives.
The OAS leader then talked about demining programs in Central America, where after 19 years of work it was possible to eradicate these weapons from this region.
”The task of removing hundreds of thousands of mines and restoring the lives of thousands of victims in different regions marked by conflicts in Central America seemed impossible in 1991. Still, the OAS responded to the call of the Central American states with the creation of the 'Program of Assistance for Demining in Central America (PADCA)' designed to assist regional efforts in humanitarian demining pointed out Insulza.
He underlined that our effort has been crowned with success because, after completion of clearance of Nicaragua in 2010, we could declare Central America as a territory free of landmines, and said: this means that we can achieve it.”
Insulza also mentioned that through the Comprehensive Action Against Antipersonnel Mines program it has been able to support the efforts of the Colombian government to destroy more than 19,000 stored mines and finish clearing 35 minefields under the jurisdiction of the Colombian Armed Forces. Likewise with OAS funding several Colombian counties have been cleared of anti-personnel mines, allowing the return of hundreds of families who had moved away for fear, plus the destruction of more than 4,700 mines and unexploded ordnance.
Another chapter was that of looking after the mines victims: 500 people in Central and South America, and in Colombia, 248 survivors were funded with transportation, room and board, and provision of ocular prostheses, glasses and hearing aids.
OAS Secretary General thanked the governments of the United States, Canada, Italy, Spain and Japan for their contributions to the demining program.
The Colombian Vice-president, and host Garzón, called on the leaders of the international community and the United Nations to intensify efforts in the fight against antipersonnel mines, and appealed to the Colombian rebel groups, such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) to cease the criminal practice of planting mines.
Finally Insulza and Garzón plus other participants of the event, rolled up their trousers in symbolic solidarity with the victims of anti-personnel mines.