SANTIAGO – Another remnant of the Pinochet dictatorship is close to being destroyed. According to Defense Minister Alberto Espina, 92 percent of the landmines at the borders with Peru, Bolivia and Argentina have been destroyed. Chile is on his way to meet the deadline posed by the Ottawa Treaty of 1997, that stated that the country had to be free of mines in 2020.
On his personal Twitter account, Espina said that “Chile will fulfill their commitment to have the country freed of these explosives in 2020.”
Apart from signing the 1997 Ottawa Treaty, former President Michelle Bachelet enacted a law in 2017, offering government compensation during the rehabilitation of victims of landmines.
During the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, thousands of landmines were planted at the borders of Chile after rising tensions with Argentina, Peru and Bolivia. Estimates about numbers vary, but the consequences are still being felt.
En la Reunión de la Comisión Nacional de Desminado recibimos una gran noticia: Un 92% de las minas antipersonales han sido destruidas. Así cumpliremos con nuestro compromiso de dejar a Chile libre de estos explosivos en 2020. pic.twitter.com/yIjK74KoqF
— Alberto Espina Otero (@albertoespina) April 5, 2019
Bolivia: “Over Two Hundred Thousand Landmines” At Border
In 2017, Bolivian authorities claimed that Chile had destroyed 80 percent of the landmines planted along its border with Bolivia. Although 181,000 landmines had been dismantled, Defense Minister Reymi Ferreira said in a government report that “there were 26,000 mines remaining,”
According to the Ottawa Treaty, in 2012 the Chilean government had to have the border with Bolivia cleared from mines, a commitment they failed to comply with according to Bolivian president Evo Morales.
Peru: Already 13 Mine Fields Cleared at Border
In 2016, both Chilean and Peruvian authorities announced that 130,497 out of 181,813 landmines had been destroyed by Chile. Most of the minefields were located in the Arica region, and covered an area of around 1.7 million square meters.
But despite the clearance operations, in 2012 a Peruvian taxi driver was killed when illegally crossing the border at an area called Quebrados Escritos and driving over an anti-tank mine.
Earlier that year, after “Altiplanic” rains took place near the border with Peru in 2012, a border crossing had to be closed for two days as landmines were washed onto the Pan-American Highway.
In 2016, a 27-year-old Peruvian man bled to death after he stepped on a land mine, trying to cross the border illegally into Chile.
Argentina: Mine Fields at Torres Del Paine And Tierra Del Fuego
The Pinochet regime laid mines at the southern border with Argentina after both countries nearly went to war over islands in the Beagle Channel.
In 2010, 5,799 mines at the north of Tierra del Fuego close to the Magellan Strait were cleared. Next landmine-clearance operations targeted the road from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and made appearances on BBC World Services and ABC News during major events in Chile.