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Chile clears minefields in Magallanes Region and Tierra del Fuego

Tuesday, July 13th 2010 - 06:40 UTC
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Defence minister Jaime Ravinet will head the official de-mining certification ceremony Defence minister Jaime Ravinet will head the official de-mining certification ceremony

Chile will announce this week that the extreme south of the country, in areas next to the border with Argentina, is free of antipersonnel mines. Chilean authorities consider this a major step to comply with the 2016 Ottawa convention timetable.

Chilean Defence minister Jaime Ravinet will sign the documents declaring three areas in the Magallanes Region as cleared and certified free of anti-personnel mines: they are fields next to Bahía Azul, close to the entrance of the Magellan Strait and in the Hornos Island, one of Tierra del Fuego’s southern most insular territories.

These will be the first areas in the south of Chile, bordering Argentina declared free of mines. However Chilean experts continue to work in the de-mining of other fields close to Argentina and in the north of the country, bordering with Bolivia and Peru.

The mine sweeping operations are going ahead with financial aid from the European Union.

According to the report released to the press, Chilean Armed Forces special teams located and destroyed 3.462 anti personnel mines and 1.844 anti-tank mines in the Bahía Azul three areas to the north of Tierra del Fuego. This has been accomplished between December 2006 and June 2010.

The three fields identified with numbers 12. 13 and 14 are next to an area of intense traffic between Argentines travelling to Punta Arenas and Santa Cruz province and Chileans driving to Argentine Tierra del Fuego.

In the Hornos island which is a tourist attraction, 200 anti personnel mines have been detected and destroyed between February 2009 and March this year.

According to Chilean officials this will help attract more tourists since large parts of the island were fenced off or simply out of bounds.

Chile’s Heritage Office has decided that the Bahia Azul area be handed over to the Navy while the Hornos island will be totally integrated to the Cape Horn National Park, managed by the government’s National Forestry Corporation.

The mines along the borders with Chile’s three neighbours date back to the seventies when the region was ruled by military dictatorships and Santiago feared armed conflicts with Argentina, Bolivia and Peru.

Most disputes with Argentina have been overcome with the mediation of the Vatican and during the first democratic governments of Ricardo Alfonsin and Carlos Menem.
However with Bolivia and Peru the disputes dating back to the second half of the 19th century remain.

 

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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