Colombians rally against landmines

13:52, April 05, 2011      

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Thousands of Colombians participated in various events Monday to call for an end to the use of anti-personnel mines and show solidarity with landmine victims.

Both governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations joined the cause on Monday, which marked the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.

In one campaign, thousands of Colombians took to the streets, each wearing only one shoe and all with their sleeves rolled up, to manifest their solidarity with the more than 9,000 mine victims Colombia has had since 1990.

Among the participants was President Juan Manuel Santos, who had his sleeves rolled up and invited all Colombians to do the same. "Today on the International Day Against Landmines, we protest against such terrorist practices, so roll up your sleeves," he said via the Internet.

Meanwhile, Vice President Angelino Garzon urged the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels and other illegally armed groups to renounce all kinds of violence.

"We call on the guerrillas to take the most revolutionary decision that is to say no to violence, to cease the practice of planting landmines, to release unconditionally all the hostages, to stop the kidnapping and to stop terrorism," Garzon said.

The most significant event was held at Plaza de Bolivar in Bogota, where 9133 shoes were placed on the ground, each representing a mine victim in Colombia, one of the countries most affected by landmines in South America.

Juan Pablo Salazar, organizer of the event, told Xinhua that the idea is to show the full dimension of the landmine tragedy. "These figures are not numbers but human beings who lost their lives or any of their members for this heinous crime," he said.

Edwin Matiz, 15, is one of the many Colombian child victims of landmines. He found a landmine on his way to a local store, mistook it for a harmless object and played with it. Then the mine exploded, claiming one of his arms.

"They sent me to make a purchase in a store. The road was unpaved, and next I found the mine. I did not know what it was. I thought it might serve for a school project. I took it to one side of the house. I began to play with it, and then it exploded," he told Xinhua.

In 2010, a total of 500 landmine fatalities were reported in Colombia and many of them were children, according to the Colombian government.

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