BOGOTA – Eleven peasants working on a drug eradication project were wounded when a landmine exploded in a rural area outside Cartagena del Chaira, a city in southern Colombia, officials said.
The injured workers were taken to the city of San Vicente del Caguan, where they were treated by doctors and are out of danger, the Office of the President’s Accion Social program said.
Six of the most severely wounded workers were transported to Florencia, the capital of Caqueta province, “because, although they are out of danger, they required treatment by specialists,” Accion Social said.
The security forces have taken measures to protect peasants employed in drug eradication programs, Accion Social chief Diego Molano said.
The government “will not surrender” in the effort to eradicate illegal crops because it wants to prevent drug trafficking from continuing to be the fuel for the violence in Colombia, Molano said.
Since 1990, some 1,700 people have been killed by landmines planted by guerrillas and drug traffickers in Colombia.
A total of 8,329 people were killed or wounded by landmines in Colombia between 1990 and March 2010, accounting for 10 percent of the world’s landmine casualties during that period, the presidential program against landmines, or Paicma, said in a recent report.
Colombia was second in the world last year in terms of casualties from landmines, with 777 people killed or wounded by the weapons, trailing only Afghanistan, which registered 992 casualties.
Landmines have been planted in 31 of Colombia’s 32 provinces, according to the United Nations.
Up to 100,000 of the weapons are estimated to have been planted around the Andean nation, the great majority of them by leftist rebels seeking to inflict casualties on soldiers and protect coca plantations that supply their extensive drug trafficking operations.
Almost all of the weapons are “non-industrial” homemade mines manufactured in guerrilla camps at low cost.
In May, police seized 1,053 landmines in Antioquia, a province in northwestern Colombia, that Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrillas apparently planned to use in attacks.
The landmines, which belonged to the FARC’s 9th Front, were buried in a rural area near El Carmen de Viboral, a village in Antioquia.
A landmine killed the commander of an army explosives disposal team that was clearing a mine field on May 17 in an area in Antioquia plagued by FARC attacks on the power grid.