Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

No More Mines!

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

No More Mines!

Article excerpt

THE ANTI-PERSONNEL landmine is a manifestation of man's cruelty to man. It is the product of war whose effects can last decades beyond the conflict itself. According to E-Mine, the Electronic Mine Action Network, it is estimated that between 15,000 and 20,000 people, both civilian and military, die or are wounded by landmines every year. Added to the incalculable cost of human life, is the economic cost.

In 1997, the United Nations approved the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction. Better known as the Ottawa Convention, it went into effect two years later. Now there are 152 states party, 33 of which are from the Americas.

This international treaty was created with the view toward ending the suffering and death caused by anti-personnel landmines "that kill or maim hundreds of people each week, mostly innocent and defenseless civilians and especially children; obstruct economic development and reconstruction; inhibit the repatriation of refugees and internally displaced persons; and have other severe consequences for years after emplacement."

But of all the negative effects of landmines, the most direct and alarming one is the maiming and killing of innocent men, women, and children carrying out their daily activities. Thousands of people have fallen victim to this indiscriminate weapon. If they are lucky and survive, their injuries often place them at a severe disadvantage and cause them great psychological trauma.

Such is the case of Edwin Uriel Gonzalez Cornejo and Jose Tomas Rodas, two young Nicaraguan citizens whose lives were dramatically changed by landmines.

"On January 13, 2005," says Gonzalez Cornejo, "when I got home from school, where I was in 11th grade, my sister told me to go pay the electricity bill. When I got back, I saw that my shoes were dirty so I went to find something to clean them with. In the house we had a room that my mother rented to a man. I went into his room to look for something to clean my shoes with, and I saw something that caught my attention. I was curious and I took the little top off of it. When I woke up, I didn't have arras anymore."

Gonzalez Cornejo, who at age sixteen had both arms amputated and lost his right eye, is now learning to live "differently" because with his arms also went the illusions of living a normal life for himself, his family, and his community. He is one more victim of the consequences of a war that ended before he was born.

Jose Tomas Rodas lost his right leg on October 28, 1986, when he. was an active duty soldier involved, precisely, in the work of cleaning up minefields. He was 33 years old. "It was during the war, and I don't know if the mine was placed by the army or by the resistance groups," he said.

Both Gonzalez Cornejo and Rodas participated in OAS-sponsored rehabilitation programs. Gonzalez Cornejo is learning Jaus (a software for the blind) and taking computer classes. Rodas learned shoemaking. Both project optimism about life and are involved in helping other victims to "overcome their suffering."

The OAS Assistance Program for Demining in Central America (now part of AICMA), headquartered in Nicaragua, was created in 1991 in order to raise awareness in the civilian population, support the rehabilitation of victims, and aid in the socio-economic recovery of the de-mined areas. …

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