Colombia’s criminal groups have increased the use of landmines to protect camps and coca crops in large parts of Colombia. According to experts, these groups use landmines in a different way than left-wing FARC and ELN rebels.
According to new information from the Colombian army, Colombia’s Bacrim (criminal groups) have increasingly resorted to planting landmines around coca crops to halt counter-narcotics operations carried out by the Colombian armed forces.
The neo-paramilitary and drug trafficking groups “use landmines to protect their camps from army and police incursions. However, [left-wing] guerrillas also use them as an offensive weapon, to ambush patrols and attack infrastructure,” Camilo Gonzalez, the director of conflict monitoring NGO Indepaz, told Colombia Reports.
The Colombian army said the Bacrim have only recently begun to make large-scale use of landmines to protect coca crops and entrances to illegal gold mines. In the Nudo de Paramillo region between the northwestern Antioquia and Cordoba departments, some six soldiers have been mutilated so far in 2013 by landmines allegedly planted by groups like the neo-paramilitary “Los Urabeños.”
Traditionally, FARC and ELN rebels have been considered the main perpetrators of violence with landmines. However, if the new trend continues, the Bacrim could very well have learned a lesson from their guerrilla counterparts.
According to SIMCI, the Colombian state agency charged with monitoring coca cultivations, there were 1,805 hectares of coca in the Paramillo region alone in 2012. The problem of landmines was worsened due to armed struggles between the FARC and Los Urabeños in the area over the control of coca cultivation.
Colombia’s largest newspaper El Tiempo wrote the most problematic area regarding landmines was the northwestern Bajo Cauca region, where a significant part of Colombia’s growing gold industry is found alongside coca fields.
Not only is the a major gold producer, it has also been contested by Los Urabeños, the drug trafficking group “Los Rastrojos” and local units from the FARC and ELN rebel groups.
All of the groups active in Bajo Cauca frequently use landmines to protect their interests, an army official with knowledge about the area told Colombia Reports.
Bajo Cauca and Nudo de Paramillo
- Interview with Camilo Gonzalez, president of Indepaz
- Bandas criminales siembran minas en varias zonas del país (El Tiempo)
- Communication with the army’s Seventh Division