Chile Re-opens Border After Clearing Landmines Dislodged by Flood

Chile re-opened its border crossing with Peru Wednesday morning, after closing it for emergency security reasons. Thousands of travelers on both sides of the border had to wait 48 hours until the restrictions were lifted.

The border was closed Monday after the Seco River in Arica flooded, dislodging anti-personnel landmines planted in the desert area.

According to Peru’s Immigration chief in Tacna, Rocío Orbegoso, the Chilean army stepped up the cleaning of the area to re-open the border some 24 hours earlier than originally scheduled.

Chile, a former producer and stockpiler of landmines and cluster munitions, signed the international Ban on Landmines in 1997 and ratified the agreement in 2001.  

The mines were laid during the Pinochet regime in the 1970s on Chile’s borders with Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. Many of the mined areas have been cleared but, according to its 2011 report, 143 mined areas remain. Over 90% of the mines that remain are along the Peru border in Arica, Parinacota and Antofagasta.   

Peru also has a landmine problem, the result of both internal and international armed conflict.  In 1995, during the Cenepa war with Ecuador, thousands of landmines were planted along the border in the dense forest of the Cordillera del Condor in the departments of Amazonas, Cajamarca, Piura and Tumbes.  There are also landmines on the Ecuadorian side of the border.  Some of the areas have been cleared, and a binational commission with the United Nations is seeking strategies to clear other areas.

In central Peru, mines were placed around electricity pylons and substations to guard the national electricity grid from attacks by the Shining Path and MRTA, as well as around three high-security prisons and police outposts.  Almost all these areas have now been cleared, with the exception of one prison in Cajamarca and two police bases.

However, a more recent danger is the use of landmines and improvised devices by the Shining Path in the Apurimac and Ene River valleys (VRAE) against coca eradication efforts by the military and police.

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