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Country Reports
GUATEMALA, Landmine Monitor Report 2000
LM Report 2000 Full Report   Executive Summary   Key Findings   Key Developments   Translated Country Reports


Key developments since March 1999: Mine clearance in Ixcán was completed and demined lands were handed over for the first time to the local communities in January 2000. Guatemala has not submitted its Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 report, which was due by 27 February 2000.

Mine Ban Policy

Guatemala signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997 and ratified on 26 March 1999. Guatemala had passed domestic legislation to ban landmines as early as 1996, with Decree Number 106-97 prohibiting the production, purchase, sale, importation, exportation, transit, use or possession of AP mines or explosive artifacts or their composite parts. It is believed that this law now serves as the implementing legislation for the Mine Ban Treaty.

Guatemala has not yet submitted its Article 7 transparency report, which was due by 27 February 2000. Director-General of Multilateral Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Arturo Duarte told Landmine Monitor in March that an office move had resulted in key files being misplaced, but he said, “We have everything in order now and we are working as fast as we can to get the report as soon as possible.”[1] When asked at the end of April for an update, he said, “We are finalizing the report and it will be delivered very soon.”[2]

Guatemala voted for UN General Assembly Resolution 54/54B in support of the Mine Ban Treaty in December 1999, as it had on similar resolutions in 1997 and 1998. It has also supported the pro-ban resolutions of the Organization of American States (OAS). It was one of nine countries that signed the “Declaration of San José” in Costa Rica on 5 April 2000, which includes an article promoting the Mine Ban Treaty.

Guatemala’s Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.E. Dr. Gabriel Aguilera led the country’s delegation to the First Meeting of States Parties in Maputo in May 1999. In a statement to the plenary, he described the mine clearance program in Guatemala and in Central America as “a model that Central America would like to share with the rest of the world.”[3]

Guatemala has participated in some of the intersessional meetings of the treaty in Geneva, including the March 2000 meetings of the Standing Committee of Experts on Mine Clearance and on Victim Assistance.

Guatemala is a state party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons but has not yet ratified Amended Protocol II on landmines. Director General Duarte told Landmine Monitor that Amended Protocol II is being considered by the Legal Department, and that he personally did not think it would be ratified within a year.[4]

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling and Use

The government of Guatemala states that it did not use landmines during its long-running internal war, and there is no concrete evidence to the contrary. The guerrillas of the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Union (URNG) made relatively limited use of crude, homemade mines and improvised explosive devices during the war. The government states that it has not produced or imported AP mines, and has no stockpile.[5] Since the conflict ended in 1996, officials state they have no reason to believe that any new mines have been planted.”[6]

Mine Action Funding

The Inter-American Defense Board (IADB) coordinates the OAS Assistance Program for Demining in Central America (PADCA). This involves mine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance programs in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, with fifteen demining platoons, each comprised of approximately 25 deminers. Guatemala currently contributes personnel to PADCA.[7] In 1999 the annual budget for the OAS regional program was $6 million and in 2000 it was $7.6 million, financed by Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.S. and the U.K.[8]

Landmine/UXO Problem

Estimates vary as to the extent of both the landmines and UXO problem in Guatemala. General Otto Perez Molina, who represents the Guatemalan military on the IADB, says that today probably only hundreds, not thousands, of landmines still pose a threat in Guatemala.[9] Indeed the UNHCR and the ICRC both estimate that before the end of the war, in the mid-1990s, there were no more than 1,500 landmines in Guatemala.[10]

The mines were laid in many regions including the Playa Grande region of Alta Verapaz province, along with the bordering region of Ixcán in Quiché province.[11] Other mined areas include the northern Petén province along Guatemala’s border with Mexico, the Tajamulco volcano in San Marcos province, and the Atitlan volcanoes in Solola province. Mines were also used near San Mateo in Huehuetenango province, as well as in mountainous regions of Quetzaltenango, Chimaltenango and Escuintla provinces.[12]

Unexploded ordnance remains a far greater problem than landmines. In 1997, the government estimated that there were between 5,000 and 8,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance in Guatemala, in the same areas listed above.[13]

Mine/UXO Clearance

On 5 June 1997, Guatemala passed Decree 46-97, which established the Executive Coordinating Unit or ”Unidad Coordinadora Ejecutiva” (UCE). In November 1997, the unit prepared a “National Plan for Demining and the Destruction of Unexploded Ordnance.” It is under the auspices of this plan that the IADB is now assisting Guatemala with its demining and UXO clearing efforts.”

The civilian Association of Volunteer Firefighters plays a key role in mine action, with more than 100 people engaged in activities including mine awareness education, obtaining information from the community on suspected mined areas, investigating and locating mines and other explosive artifacts. They mark the mines and UXO and the Army comes and destroys them.[14] Future plans for the Association of Volunteer Firefighters include development and maintenance of a database on mine-affected areas and mine clearance, with the logistic support of the PADCA-OAS.[15]

The IADB began training Guatemalan personnel in demining efforts in June 1998. Hurricane Mitch, which swept Central America’s Atlantic Coast in November 1998, did not delay demining activities in Guatemala.[16] In December 1998, mine clearance started in Ixcán, Quiché Departments. The Association of Volunteer Firefighters located 145 explosive artifacts that the Army destroyed.[17] Mine clearance in Ixcán was completed and demined lands were handed over to the community in January 2000.[18]

In February 2000 clearance in the Ixil Triangle started, including Nebaj, Chajúl and Cotzalm, the three regions most affected by the war. By the year 2002, the plan is to complete mine clearance in all of Quiché.[19]

Mine Awareness

The Association of Volunteer Firefighters conducts mine awareness education through TV, radio, and press, with support of the OAS and some logistical and financial support by the government.

In the mid-1990s, UNHCR, which was facilitating the repatriation of war refugees from Mexico back to Guatemala, embarked on a landmine and UXO awareness program which trained Guatemalan civilians among the repatriating community both in mine detection and mine awareness.

Landmine Casualties

According to the Association of Volunteer Firefighters, about 15 people have been hurt by landmines and UXO since 1994; before that there are no records.[20] There have been no new reported mine casualties since publication of Landmine Monitor Report 1999, but officials caution that they cannot be certain “because sometimes people go to hospitals but do not give the information to us.”[21]

Survivor Assistance

Guatemala has yet to make any comprehensive effort to treat war wounded. There is no special program for landmine survivor assistance, except for the Army through the Centro de Atención al Desacapacitado del Ejercito de Guatemala (CADEJ).[22] It appears that little or no treatment is currently available in Guatemala for prosthetics fitting, rehabilitation or workplace reincorporation. Partly because the overall need for such programs is considered to be far less in Guatemala than in other Central American nations, the Pan-American Health Organization is not undertaking such efforts in Guatemala. One official noted, “Everybody keeps talking about the mines and nobody is talking about the ones hurt by them.”[23]

In April 2000, the Center for International Rehabilitation published a “Rehabilitation Resource Directory for Central America,” which includes information on services available in Guatemala. This information was collected and provided to the directory by a local NGO, Guatemalan Rehabilitation Association (AGREL).[24] The Center for International Rehabilitation is also designing and implementing short-term, upgrade training courses for Guatemalan professionals providing rehabilitation services, including training manuals.[25] Thirty-five professionals have been trained, in coordination with PAHO, in Health Information Systems.[26]


[1] Interview with Arturo Duarte, General Director of Multilateral Relations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Guatemala City, 13 March 2000.
[2] Telephone interview with Arturo Duarte, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 23 April 2000.
[3] Statement of Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabriel Aguilera Preralta at the First Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty, Maputo, 3 May 1999, p. 3.
[4] Interview with Arturo Duarte, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 13 March 2000.
[5] Interview with General Otto Perez Molina, the Guatemalan military’s representative to the IADB, Washington, D.C., 19 February 1999.
[6] Interview with Arturo Duarte, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 13 March 2000.
[7] Email from Jhosselin Bakhat, Organization of American States, 20 June 2000.
[8] Ibid.; “Demining” section of the Unit for the Promotion of Democracy, Organization of American States, http://www.oas.org/upd/demining/demining.htm
[9] Interview with General Perez Molina, IADB, Washington, D.C., 19 February 1999.
[10] UNHCR estimated that there were 1,000 to 1,500 landmines in Guatemala in the mid-1990s, according to the United Nations landmine country report on Guatemala. See http://www.un.org/Depts/landmine/country. The ICRC reported in 1996 that the total number of mines “is probably under 1,500.” Antipersonnel Mines in Central America, p. 19.
[11] UN landmine country report for Guatemala, 3 March 1997.
[12] ICRC, Antipersonnel Mines in Central America, p. 18-19.
[13] Republic of Guatemala, Legislative Commission for Peace Studies, Executive Coordination Unit, “National Plan for Demining and the Destruction of Unexploded Ordnance,” November 1997.
[14] Interview with Officer Sergio Vasquez, Public Relations Officer for Mine Clearance, Voluntary Fire Department, Guatemala City, 10 March 2000.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Organizaci∴n de Estados Americanos, Junta Interamericana de Defensa, “El Programa de Asistencia al Desminado en Centroamerica,” 4 February 1999.
[17] Interview with Guillermo Pacheco, OAS Desminado, Guatemala City, 16 December 1999.
[18] See OAS contribution to Landmine Monitor Report 2000.
[19] Interview with Guillermo Pacheco, OAS Desminado, Guatemala City, 16 December 1999.
[20] Interview with Officer Sergio Vasquez, 10 March 2000.
[21] Telephone interview with Officer Sergio Vasquez, 3 April 2000.
[22] Interview with Guillermo Pacheco, OAS Desminado, Guatemala City, 16 December 1999.
[23] Interview with Arturo Duarte, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 13 March 2000.
[24] Center for International Rehabilitation, “Central American Rehabilitation Resource Directory published by the Center for International Rehabilitation,” Press Release, 12 April 2000.
[25] “Partners: Guatemala” section of the web site of Center for International Rehabilitation, http://www.worldrehab.org/partners/guatemala.htm.
[26] See UNICEF contribution to Landmine Monitor Report 2000.