Conflict & Justice

FARC still a danger in Colombia

CR tells the story of a man who wanted to go to town to sell a mule. His family said it was too dangerous because the road was littered with landmines. There have been landmines hidden under the roads of this mountain for years. The mines were placed by the National Liberation Army, or ELN by their Spanish acronym. It's one of several armed groups in Colombia, and smaller but more rigid in its ideology than the better known FARC. The ELN uses the mines to keep government forces at bay, and until recently locals knew where most of the mines were. The group has become more desperate recently though, and placed down more mines, most of which are unmarked. Now for locals, a simple trip to sell a mule has become all but impossible. This man's friend says his friend never turned up after trying to sell a mule. After retracing his steps, they found the man's thermos of coffee and saw his shirt way up in a tree. The man's daughter walked off into the woods and found her dead father with lots of missing body parts. According to the World Landmine Monitor, Colombia has the highest rate of mine-related accidents in the world, with 193 landmine deaths last year. In this region, the problem is now so severe, it has brought normal life to a standstill. 15 miles away in another village, this major of the Colombian army talks to people from communities deep in the conflict zone. Thanks to army de-mining, the people have made it this far. The army commander says the road is clear for just another mile or so. The houses and streets in this deserted village are rigged with boobytraps. Word arrives from a local farmer that we're being watched by an ELN lookout. In single file we head briskly down the road. The locals avoid my microphone because talking to a journalist would be risky if the rebels find out. Within a few minutes, we snake our way through the empty streets of the village and head further into a minefield.

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