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Cablegate: Civilian Demining Expected in Colombia for 2010

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #0096/01 0081638
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 081637Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1982
INFO RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0035
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA 0007
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA

UNCLAS BOGOTA 000096

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PARM PREL KHDP CO
SUBJECT: CIVILIAN DEMINING EXPECTED IN COLOMBIA FOR 2010

REF: 09 BOGOTA 4126

SUMMARY

-------

1. (SBU) During the Second Review Conference of the Ottawa
Convention Banning Anti-Personnel Landmines in Cartagena in
December, the Government of Colombia (GOC) told Poloff they expect
civilian demining to begin in 2010. The GOC also confirmed they
would initially limit civilian demining to the British organization
HALO Trust and then slowly include others. Landmines continue to
be a significant problem in Colombia with nearly 800 new victims
registered in 2008. Civilian demining will increase GOC capacity
to demine communities affected by landmines. End Summary.

CIVILIAN DEMINING EXPECTED TO START IN 2010 IN COLOMBIA

--------------------------------------------- ----------

2. (SBU) Acknowledging the need to increase humanitarian demining
efforts, the GOC told us at the Second Review Conference of the
Ottawa Convention (reftel) it planned to initiate civilian demining
operations in 2010. Andres Davila, Director of Colombia's
Presidential Program for Mine Action (PPAICMA) told Poloff the GOC
intended to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the
British organization HALO Trust and initially limit civilian
demining to this organization. HALO Trust is only one of several
international civilian demining organizations lobbying the GOC for
a demining contract. Currently, all demining is done by the
Colombian military in coordination with PPAICMA and the
Organization of American States (OAS).

3. (SBU) Davila's announcement is not surprising, as the GOC began
initial discussions of civilian demining in 2008. However, the
process has been slow. HALO started discussing the MOU with the
GOC in June 2009. The GOC held a workshop in October to discuss
accreditation of civilian demining organizations. On October 23,
Vice President Santos assured the international community the
framework was nearly done, arguing the unique security concerns in
Colombia required the GOC to be slow and cautious. HALO Trust and
the British Embassy have complained about the GOC's sluggish pace.

LANDMINES POSE HUGE CHALLENGES FOR COLOMBIA

-------------------------------------------

4. (U) Landmines continue to be a significant problem in Colombia,
with nearly 800 new victims registered in 2008 -- the highest
number worldwide. However, from January to November 2009 there
were 544 new landmine victims (civilian and military), a 26%
decrease from the same period in 2008. PPAICMA estimates landmines
are spread throughout 40 percent of Colombia's national territory,
affecting 31 of the 32 departments. Illegal armed groups,
primarily the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the
National Liberation Army (ELN), continue to use landmines as a
weapon of war and have planted over 50,000 mines throughout
Colombia, according to PPAICMA (Note: In late 1997 Colombia signed
the Ottawa Convention banning the use of anti-personnel mines and
as of 1998 the Colombian Military stopped producing new mines. End
Note.)

INCREASED CAPACITY THROUGH CIVILIAN DEMINING

--------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Anti-landmine groups have long advocated for civilian
demining operations. Currently, there are six humanitarian
demining platoons in the Colombian military, but three are
dedicated to demining military minefields and are not expected to
finish demining the eight remaining fields until March 2011. The
GOC plans to expand the humanitarian demining program to 14
platoons, but Carl Case, OAS Director of the Office of Humanitarian
Mine Action, admitted the demand from affected communities will

surpass the platoons' capacity.

6. (U) European countries, including France and Britain, are
lobbying the GOC to allow civilian demining because their
governments prefer funding civilian rather than military demining
programs. While various countries contribute to mine action
activities, including victims' assistance, only the United States,
Canada, and Italy regularly provide funds for mine clearance (Spain
has provided training in the past and Japan recently donated some
demining equipment). The United States is the largest contributor,
with $840,000 donated by the Department of State in 2009 and
$470,000 provided by the U.S. Southern Command since 2007.
BROWNFIELD

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