Colombia’s landmines are more than a legacy issue

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Gideon Long in Caquetá, Colombia

In the 34 years that Germán Balanta spent in Colombia’s most powerful leftist guerrilla group, the Farc, he and his fellow fighters planted thousands of landmines across the country. Now, he is helping to dig them up.

Balanta and scores of other former guerrillas are part of a project in southern Colombia to identify and clear minefields. They work for a group called Humanicemos, made up almost exclusively of ex-combatants. It is part of the Farc’s commitment to peace, agreed in the peace accord signed with the state in 2016.

“We planted mines and it pains me to admit that,” Balanta said as he showed me a rusty homemade nail-bomb his team found recently in the department of Caquetá, for years a stronghold of the Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). “But now we’re trying to make amends.”