by Leah Young [ Center for International Stabilization and Recovery ]
Since October 1999, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has been a State Party to the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention,1 which it signed 3 December 1997, and ratified 14 April 1999. Upon ratification of the convention, the document became a national law of Venezuela.2 At the U.N. Conference on Disarmament in 2004, Venezuela announced that it had fulfilled its duties to the Convention in 2003, destroying 47,189 AP mines and keeping 5,000 landmines for military training. The country also announced that it had enacted the Disarmament Act in 2003, which sought to eliminate the illegal possession of small arms/light weapons from the public sector.3 Despite complying with certain aspects of the Ottawa Convention1 by ratifying it and meeting deadlines for stockpile destruction, the Venezuelan military continues to violate the Convention by using landmines around several military bases. Venezuela laid 1,074 AP mines from 1995–97, surrounding six of its naval bases on the border shared with Colombia. Controversially, Venezuela openly stated in its 2007 Article 7 Report that it continues “making active use of these emplaced antipersonnel mines.”2 Furthermore, Venezuela says that it may need to have its deadline for mine clearance lengthened. Venezuela cites threats from Colombian guerrilla forces, stating that until the country develops a replacement form of an early-detection warning system to use in their place, the mines will continue to be utilized for this purpose. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines stands in opposition to this military usage, officially stating that “Venezuela has in essence said that it is purposefully deploying AP mines in order to derive military benefit from them, and is refusing, as required by the treaty, to clear them as soon as possible, or possibly even by the 10-year deadline.”2 However, Venezuela responds that it is “fully committed to the objectives and spirit of the Ottawa Convention.”
Within Venezuela, there is no existing national mine-action authority and therefore no national mine-action center to oversee mine-related activities. Rather, since 2004, Rear Admiral Alcibíades Jesús Paz has held a post that places him in charge of mine-clearance training and operations. According to Venezuela’s Article 5 obligations, AP mine-clearance efforts were to be completed by 2009. However, Venezuela has not fulfilled this requirement, pointing to weather-related hindrances, which allow only five months of mine clearance annually.
In March 2008, the nation requested an extension on clearance until 2014, which was granted at the ninth meeting of the States Parties to the Ottawa Convention in November 2008.4 Current plans are set for demining efforts to begin in 2010, with a completion date of 2014.5
In recent years, there have only been two mine-related casualties—both of them incidents involving the military. The most recent occurrence took place in 2004, and before that in 1996, although it was not disclosed for seven years. In 2007, the Venezuelan government finally revealed the facts of the 1996 mine-casualty event, which took place at the naval base in the Río Arauca Internacional in Apure state.2 No casualties from landmine-related incidents have been reported in the last four years within Venezuela.
Venezuela’s Article 7 report does not include information on provisions for landmine survivors. The Venezuelan government did, however, provide survivor assistance to the victims of the 1996 and 2004 military mine incidents. The victim from the incident in 1996 received medical aid and psychological assistance. A court case is ongoing concerning the victim of the 2004 incident, who was told to go into the minefield by a commander.
Meanwhile, the commander who gave the order has received disciplinary action, and the victim of the accident receives a pension.2 Venezuela has a national health-care system in place that includes “specialized services” in urban hospital locations. Rehabilitation services are one of these services available. Venezuela is not a signatory to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but it does have national laws that protect disabled persons from discrimination.2
Venezuela is a State Party of the Ottawa Convention, and while it has complied with some of its precepts, it continues to violate the tenants of the convention by refusing to remove the landmines laid for defensive purposes around its naval bases bordering Colombia. There is a high level of drug-related violence along the border,6 necessitating some form of an early-alert system for the nation. However, there are other early-alert systems that can be used in place of landmines. Furthermore, Venezuela has requested its original 2009 Article 5 deadline be extended to 2014.2 Although casualty rates are extremely low, Venezuela remains one of a handful of signatory nations that continue to deliberately violate the convention.
Leah Young worked at The Journal of ERW and Mine Action from January 2008 until August 2009. She is from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and attended James Madison University. She recently completed her bachelor’s degree in Justice Studies with a minor in Spanish.
- Convention on the Prohibition of the Use Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, Oslo, Norway. 18 September 1997. http://www.icbl.org/treaty/text/english. Accessed 6 October, 2008. The document was opened for signature in Ottawa, Canada, 3 December 1997, commonly known as the Ottawa Convention.
- “Venezuela.” Landmine Monitor Report 2007. http://www.icbl.org/lm/2007/venezuela.html. Accessed 6 October 2008.
- “Conference on Disarmament Hears Statements from France, Myanmar, Venezuela and Malaysia.” United Nations International School. 19 February 2004. http://www2.unog.ch/news2/documents/newsen/dc04007e.htm. Accessed 6 October 2008.
- Gabelnick, Tamar. “The Article Five Extension Request Process.” The Journal of ERW and Mine Action 12.2 (2008/2009): 63–67. http://maic.jmu.edu/journal/12.2/sp/gabelnick/gabelnick.htm. Accessed 17 June 2009.
- “Venezuela.” Landmine Monitor Report 2008. http://www.icbl.org/lm/2008/countries/venezuela.php. Accessed 14 March 2009.
- “Venezuela.” CIA World Fact Book. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ve.html. Accessed 6 October 2008.
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