LA PAZ – The Chilean army has destroyed the 22,988 landmines planted on the border with Bolivia in the 1970s, the new Chilean consul in La Paz, Jorge Canelas, said in an interview published over the weekend.
Canelas, who arrived in La Paz on May 28 to assume his duties, told the La Prensa newspaper that rains had caused the mines to shift from their original position and made the task of removing them more difficult.
“We were able to (finish the work) with great effort and now we’re pleased to say we’ve completed the mine-clearance process on the border with Bolivia and now all that’s left is to certify the demining; it’s an indispensable verification process,” Canelas told the La Paz daily.
The Chilean army began the work of destroying the landmines in 2005.
International certification of the demining is to be carried out under the terms of the Ottawa Treaty, which set a deadline of 2012 for Chile to complete the process.
The Chilean consul said no date has yet been set for the start of the verification but that arrangements are currently being made.
After that process is concluded, the two neighbors will set up an integrated control center on the border between the Chilean town of Chungara and the Bolivian town of Tambo Quemado.
That facility will help improve surveillance of the border and help prevent the flow of contraband and drug precursor chemicals.
According to the daily, those issues will be discussed at a meeting between authorities from both countries during the first half of July in La Paz.
The nations have held talks since 2006 aimed at improving bilateral relations, with negotiators trying to seek compromise on issues such as Bolivia’s demand that Chile give it access to a strip of Pacific coastline that it seized from the now-landlocked nation in a 19th century war.
Enduring acrimony over the issue led Santiago and La Paz to break off full diplomatic relations in 1962, resuming ties only for a brief period from 1975 to 1978 during the military dictatorships of Gens. Augusto Pinochet in Chile and Hugo Banzer in Bolivia.
The two countries currently maintain only consular ties. EFE