Brazilian Navy heads team to support demining in ColombiaBrazilian Navy heads team to support demining in Colombia

Participation in the group is part of Brazil’s adherence to the Ottawa Convention

By Agência Marinha de Notícias – Brasília, DF

The year was 1997 when an officer of the Brazilian Navy – then Corvette Captain (Marine) Rui Xavier da Silva, who was admitted to a hospital in the United States of America, was visited by Princess Diana. The reason was the amputation of his right foot, due to the fact that he stepped on a mine in Honduras, on the border with Nicaragua, during a mine-clearing mission in Central America. At the time, the princess was on a worldwide campaign about efforts to remove and destroy landmines.

Today, December 3rd, marks 25 years since Brazil signed the “Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction”, also known as the Ottawa Convention, signed in that Canadian city in 1997. Since then, it has been adopted by more than 160 countries as part of the international community’s efforts to reduce the remaining damage to populations resulting from armed conflicts.

However, according to data from the United Nations (UN), after 20 years of steady decline, the number of mine victims in the world has increased again since 2017. According to the UN, Colombia is one of the countries with the highest contamination of antipersonnel mines, improvised explosive devices and failed ammunition in its territory and, consequently, the highest number of victims. 

A princesa Diana visitou o então Capitão de Corveta Rui em hospital nos EUA, para onde ele foi levado após o acidente em Honduras. Arquivo MB

The Brazilian Navy assumes the leadership of the Monitoring Group on Demining in Colombia

In 2006, the Inter-American Monitors Group of the Organization of American States’ Assistance Mission to Colombia’s National Demining Plan (GMI-CO) was created, under the coordination of the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB). And since November 17th of this year, the Brazilian Navy has been in charge of GMI-CO. The position was assumed by Navy Captain Leonel Mariano da Silva Júnior, passed by Engineering Colonel Cleber Machado Arruda, of the Brazilian Army, in a ceremony held at the facilities of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Bogota, Colombia.

This group currently has military personnel from Brazil (Navy and Army) and Mexico, performing the evaluation and monitoring of humanitarian demining organizations, both military and civilian, operating in Colombia, according to that country’s international standards for this activity. The evaluation is carried out both of the training and the planning and execution of the activities. 

According to Sea and War Captain Leonel, head of the GMI-CO until November 2024 – the sixth Marine officer in this function, and who also worked in the demining of the border between Nicaragua and Honduras, from 2001 to 2003 – the Brazilian participation in this type of mission brings humanitarian return and support to Colombian development, but goes beyond, by strengthening the integration and solidarity of Brazil with friendly nations. 

In the GMI-CO handover were present diplomatic authorities from Brazil and Mexico, and civilian and military leaders from the OAS, IADB and Colombia in the area of demining – Source: Marine News Agency

“The Group’s military personnel provide fundamental support to achieve a land free of suspected mines, allowing for the socio-economic development and safety of the affected populations. Missions such as this one also bring unequivocal professional gains, by keeping our personnel in touch with technological and doctrinal developments in the removal and destruction of landmines and improvised artifacts. They contribute to our troops’ performance in other scenarios where this training is relevant”, he said.

The GMI-CO contributes to the international community’s efforts of funding, logistical support and technical advice for the destruction of antipersonnel landmines, improvised explosive devices, and failed munitions, remaining on Colombian soil after more than fifty years of internal conflict. Since 2006, the Group has been primarily active in training Colombian military personnel for demining activity in the humanitarian, not combat, context. 

From 2008 until 2016, GMI-CO’s role was to directly monitor humanitarian demining actions, both in areas with industrialized mines that had been laid by the Colombian Armed Forces for their protection, and in areas with mines and improvised artifacts laid by guerrilla groups. 

Since 2016, with the large scale that these actions have taken in Colombia (today there are 5,500 people employed in this activity, including military and civilian personnel), the GMI-CO began to prioritize the quality management of humanitarian demining in the country. This includes the certification of personnel who are being trained for this activity. The GMI-CO has already directly participated in the certification of 8,000 military and civilian professionals during its 16 years of operation. Under the peace agreements, GMI-CO personnel certify civilian organizations in OAS program uniforms, as in the photo that opens this report.

Among the institutions that are monitored by the Group are the Colombian Army’s Humanitarian Demining Brigade and the Colombian Navy’s Demining and Amphibious Engineers Battalion, as well as Non-Governmental Organizations contracted for the task (currently four). 

According to Colonel Cleber, who became head of the GMI-CO, the Group “contributes to the safe, effective, and efficient development of humanitarian demining activities carried out by civilian and military organizations, and also ensures the transparency of the process and the quality of the results.

In addition to the military personnel of the GMI-CO, the MB and the EB send specialized officers and enlisted personnel to act as advisors and instructors to these organizations. The MB also has military personnel stationed at the Colombian Navy’s “Centro de Entrenamiento Anfibio” (Amphibious Training Center), working to train that country’s Marines in this activity. 

For Lieutenant-Captain (Marine) Vinícius Araújo, who has served as GMI-CO Monitor since August 2021, GMI-CO’s actions are fundamental for capacity generation and quality assurance. “We share the responsibility of certifying who, military or civilian, is able to be accredited in the various functions within humanitarian demining,” he highlighted.

The humanitarian demining actions after conflicts in the American continent, with the coordination of the OAS and IADB, began in 1993 in Honduras, reaching Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Peru and Suriname, besides Colombia itself, always with the participation of marines of the MB and military personnel of the EB, all specialized in combat engineering, an activity which has in its scope the removal and destruction of landmines and other explosive artifacts. 

In the field of humanitarian demining, the Brazilian Marines also played a prominent role in Peacekeeping Operations in Angola from 1993 to 1995, under the aegis of the United Nations. In all these missions in Africa and the Americas, the MB has already sent about 300 officers and enlisted combat engineers.

*** Translated by the DEFCONPress FYI Team ***

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