The commander of Colombia’s Armed Forces says the FARC are increasingly returning to traditional guerrilla tactics like the use of landmines, and warns of the difficulty of removing these devices, EFE reported Thursday.
According to Admiral Edgar Cely, the increased use of more antipersonnel mines is a sign of the weakness of the FARC, which has “gone backwards several years” with their return to traditional “guerrilla warfare.”
The military chief said that there are antipersonnel mines “everywhere” in Colombia and “we do not know where they are,” labelling this “a very serious problem.”
So far this year these mines have taken the lives of 13 soldiers and injured 81, while the figures for 2010 ended with 101 dead military personnel and a further 417 wounded.
The admiral said that even if the armed conflict were to end today, it would take “many years” to locate and deactivate all the mines laid by the FARC rebels.
He warned that the “order of these barbarians is to increase the minefields,” explaining how the FARC, besides placing the mines in the ground or in trees, now also use “ghost” mines buried out of sight and detonated by remote control.
The military chief rejected as “absurd” the notion that the military intends to completely wipe out all FARC members, currently estimated to number around 8,000.
He stated that, in his view, peace will arrive when the FARC are pressurized into “a point of no return,” that forces them to demobilize and begin negotiations with the government.
Cely explained how every time that there are demobilizations, the former insurgents claim to have been used as “cannon fodder” by the FARC and that “there is no order” to their operations.
The Colombian Armed Forces recently completed the removal of mines that they had placed themselves in order to defend their military bases. This was in accordance with the Convention on the Prohibition of Antipersonnel Mines, signed in Ottawa in 1998, for which Colombia requested a ten year extension period.
The top army official noted that the army deactivated 3,428 mines in over 12,615 hours of work, which equates to removing one of these devices every 3.6 hours.