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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 April 2006, 12:02 GMT 13:02 UK
Mines and drugs: 'An evil business'

Juanes is a committed anti-landmine activist
As part of Newsnight's Inside Latin America week we asked Colombian singer and anti-landmine activist Juanes to tell us about his country Colombia - and how his vision of it differs from that of Europeans.

Today another three people will be killed by landmines in Colombia.

It's the same thing every day.

Colombia is the country with the most landmines in the southern hemisphere.

Planted on Colombian soil lie more than 150,000 landmines and probably more than half of these will still be active 50 years from now - that is if a child, a farmer or a soldier doesn't step on them first.


Landmine victim in Colombia
A Colombian landmine victim on UN mine awareness day
Even though all Latin American countries have signed the Ottawa treaty which prohibits the use of these fatal, economical, horrifying weapons, in Colombia they remain the weapon of choice for the guerrillas and drug traffickers.

Landmines are used to protect the coca plantations as well as the trafficker once the produce has been collected. The landmines are part of the escape plan and help protect the guerrillas after they have attacked villages.

The detection of landmines is not only difficult but also very expensive. Often land mines are moved by natural forces such as floods and hurricanes.

The mines are planted in rural areas where farmers and their families have become victims of an armed conflict of rebellion that has been going on in Colombia for the past 50 years.

Young victims

Many of these victims are young children who are on their way to school, playing in the mountains or getting water from the river. Landmines terrorise farmers who in turn abandon their crops and move to larger cities where they cannot find work to support their families.

This contributes to the unemployment index and delinquency which increases the social problems and generates an economic imbalance.

At this pace, Colombia will be the country with the most landmines in the world
In Colombia - my country - contrary to what people may think, landmines do not only kill and ruin the lives of military personnel. More than 40% of victims are civilians and half of these are children of less than 14 years of age.

The removal of all landmines on Colombian soil is a duty that will remain a dream for some time to come due to the existence of an armed conflict that is financed by the largest business in the world after oil: DRUGS.

The drug money comes from the most powerful countries in the world, home to the largest number of drug addicts. Colombia in turn provides the mutilated children and the numerous deaths.

More and more mines

In 30 of the 32 provinces of Colombia, landmines are planted. My city, Medellin, is the capital of the region of Antioquia, which has the most landmines and therefore the most victims.

Juanes retains hope for Colombia
The Colombian government destroyed all mines that were planted to protect themselves from the rebels and drug traffickers. But the rebels have responded with the planting of more and more mines.

At this pace, Colombia will be the country with the most landmines in the world. The world is not aware of what is occurring here, neither is the media. Colombia needs the support of all countries. We need to spread the message and demand aid in order to stop these organized, systematic and atrocious crimes.

Not just words

We have hope that there will be light at the end of this tunnel
Barbarians need convincing that with these weapons they are not going to gain any support. It is time for world opinion to understand Colombia's struggle.

We cannot continue to accept that in airports, once we show our Colombian passports, we are treated like criminals instead of victims of violence.

Violence supported in the most part by the drug consumers of rich countries. Drug consumption which increases everyday, as does the blood shed by Colombians.

Colombians are fighting against this problem but not just with words, with widows and orphans too. We have hope that there will be light at the end of this tunnel.

In my country, by being so close to death, we appreciate and love life more.

Juanes performs his new single 'La camisa negra' on Newsnight Review at 2300BST/2200GMT.

Watch Carlos Acosta dance on Newsnight

UN marks landmine awareness day
04 Apr 06 |  Americas

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