Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tierra Del Fuego Island Cleared of Mines, but Job Continues

The arduous job of clearing Chile's minefields reached a milestone this month, when Isla Grande in Tierra Del Fuego was declared free of landmines. But the achievement also served as a reminder of just how much more work is still needed to rid the country of anti-personnel and anti-tank mines. After clearing more than 96,000 anti-personnel mines, the task is barely half completed. In the far south region of Magallanes, 78% of mines are gone. The minefields near the borders with Peru and Bolivia are farther behind. Still, Chile has a target date of 2020 to complete the job, which is obligated to perform as a signer of the Ottawa Convention. The mines were Chile's answer to the threat of war with Argentina in 1978, when Argentina had a far superior military and Chile was coping simultaneously with a threatened attack from Peru. The crises eventually abated, but the landmines remain a legacy of those tense days. Traditionally, mines have served the weaker armies with an effective way to confront adversaries. Mines have a deleterious effect on maneuver forces, if not a lethal one. At least the problem is manageable in Chile, which charted all of its minefields. In many other countries, it's anyone's guess where mines have been laid.

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