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Country Reports
VENEZUELA, Landmine Monitor Report 2005


Key developments since May 2004: Venezuela submitted its first Article 7 report in two years, which provided additional details on stockpile destruction and revised previous information on mines laid by Venezuela in the past. Venezuela joined the Convention on Conventional Weapons and its Amended Protocol II on 19 April 2005. In July 2005, Venezuela set out a timetable for clearance, before its Article 5 deadline, of antipersonnel mines around six Navy posts. As of August 2005, mine clearance operations had not started.

Mine Ban Policy

Venezuela signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997, ratified on 14 April 1999, and the treaty entered into force on 1 October 1999. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not consider domestic legislation to implement the Mine Ban Treaty as necessary because international treaties ratified by the government automatically become national law.[1 ] Neither the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the Armed Forces have proposed to the National Assembly that penal sanctions be enacted specifically for antipersonnel mines.[2 ] Venezuela’s penal code was reformed on 16 March 2005, without any reference made to antipersonnel landmines.[3]

Venezuela submitted its third Article 7 report on 4 July 2005.[4 ] It does not indicate the reporting period, does not cover all the information required by Article 7, and does not utilize the standard forms.[5 ] The report is the first update since May 2003.

Venezuela attended the First Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty in November-December 2004 in Nairobi, where it made a statement to the high level segment. Venezuela also participated in the intersessional meetings in June 2005 in Geneva, where it made a statement asking that Landmine Monitor correct its information that Venezuela laid antipersonnel mines after signing the Mine Ban Treaty (see below).

Venezuela has not engaged in the extensive discussions that States Parties have had on matters of interpretation and implementation related to Articles 1, 2 and 3. Thus, it has not made known its views on the issues of joint military operations with non-States Parties, foreign stockpiling and transit of antipersonnel mines, antivehicle mines with sensitive fuzes or antihandling devices, and the permissible number of mines retained for training.

Venezuela joined the Convention on Conventional Weapons and Amended Protocol II on landmines on 19 April 2005. It did not attend the Sixth Annual Conference of States Parties to Amended Protocol II on 17 November 2004.

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling and Destruction

Venezuela reports that it has not produced antipersonnel mines.[6 ] The country is not known to have exported antipersonnel mines. While the media has continued to report instances of weapons trafficking between Colombia and Venezuela, Landmine Monitor has not found any evidence of antipersonnel mine transfers. Information in Venezuela’s Article 7 reports indicates that in the past Venezuela obtained antipersonnel landmines from Belgium, Italy, Spain, the United States and the former Yugoslavia.[7]

On 25 November 2003, Venezuela reported to the United Nations Secretary-General that it completed destruction of its stockpile of 47,189 antipersonnel mines on 24 September 2003, days ahead of the country’s four-year deadline of 1 October 2003.[8 ]

Venezuela provided new information on its stockpile destruction in the July 2005 Article 7 report. On 13 May 2003, 35,360 stockpiled mines were destroyed in the North Central Arsenal (Polvorines Centro Norte); on 15 July 2003, 587 mines were destroyed in the Southern Region Arsenal (Polvorines Región Sur); on 18 July 2003, 3,385 mines were destroyed in the Zulia State Arsenal (Polvorines Estado Zulia); on 10 September 2003, 4,451 mines were destroyed in the West Central Regional Arsenal (Polvorines Región Centro Occidente); on 24 September 2003, 3,406 mines were destroyed in the South West Regional Arsenal (Polvorines Región Sur Occidental). The types of antipersonnel mines destroyed were not indicated.[9]

Despite several requests, Landmine Monitor was not invited to witness any of the stockpile destruction events and it appears that there were no media or other observers in attendance. Venezuela apparently did not inform States Parties at the time that it had met its treaty obligation.[10 ]

Mines Retained for Training

In its July 2005 Article 7 report, Venezuela indicated that 4,960 antipersonnel mines were retained for training and development purposes.[11 ] Of the total, 4,950 mines are retained in the Armament Directorate of the National Armed Forces (Dirección de Armamento de la Fuerza Armada Nacional, DARFA), and 10 mines are located at the Attorney’s Office Number 8 in Puerto Cabello, Carabobo state, for presumed theft [presunto delito de hurto]. No additional information on the theft of the mines is included in the report.[12 ]

Venezuela has not yet reported in any detail on the intended purposes and actual uses of its retained mines―a step agreed to by States Parties in the Nairobi Action Plan that emerged from the First Review Conference.

In November 2003, when Venezuela reported completion of stockpile destruction, it stated that 5,000 antipersonnel mines would be retained for training.[13 ] Subsequently, in August 2004, a Foreign Ministry representative said a total of 4,960 antipersonnel mines remained, of which 3,960 mines were due to be destroyed by October 2004 at El Pao in Cojedes state, and 1,000 were to be retained for training.[14 ] In December 2004, Landmine Monitor was informed that the destruction of the mines had not taken place.[15 ] In June 2005, the Venezuelan representative to the intersessional Standing Committee meetings confirmed no destruction had taken place and that all 4,960 antipersonnel mines would be kept for training.[16]


In its July 2005 Article 7 report, Venezuela reported on 1,073 antipersonnel mines it laid around six Navy posts between April 1995 and March 1997. This revised the number (1,036) and some dates of emplacement as recorded in previous Article 7 reports. Most notably, Venezuela reported that 57 SB-33 antipersonnel mines were laid at PNGUA (Guafitas) in March 1997 instead of May 1998.[17 ] Landmine Monitor had pointed out that the May 1998 date meant Venezuela used antipersonnel mines some five months after it signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997.[18 ] Previous Landmine Monitor Reports have provided extensive details on these minefields.[19 ]

Colombian non-state armed groups are active in Venezuela’s border region, but Landmine Monitor did not receive any allegations of use of antipersonnel mines in 2004 or 2005 by them, or by peasants or landowners in this area. In May 2005, Landmine Monitor visited the community of San Juaquín de Navay in Libertador municipality, Táchira state, where the media had reported in December 2001 that guerrillas belonging to a Colombian group called the Latin American Popular Army (Ejército Popular Latinoamericano, EPLA) were using “explosive mines” around their camps in Venezuelan territory.[20 ] A local authority (Prefecto), as well as the commander of the local Army post and a teacher, confirmed the incident in 2001, which occurred in Los Monos sector in the rural area of the municipality. They also said that since then no new incidents involving antipersonnel mines had occurred.[21]

Landmine Problem

The mine problem in Venezuela results from 1,074 antipersonnel mines laid by government forces around six naval posts along the border with Colombia (Atabapo, Cararabo, Guafitas, Isla Vapor, Puerto Páez and Río Arauca Internacional).

In June 2005, Venezuela reported that there were 1,073 landmines remaining to be cleared, due to the accidental detonation of one mine at Guafitas.[22 ] An investigation of this incident concluded that the post commander did not have maps of the minefields, and that “there are mined areas outside the zone that is fenced.”[23 ]

Mine Action

The Mine Ban Treaty requires that Venezuela destroy all antipersonnel mines in mined areas under its jurisdiction or control as soon as possible, and no later than 1 October 2009.

On 19 August 2004, a Ministry of Defense resolution assigned a naval officer as General Coordinator of mine clearance operations and training.[24 ] In July 2005, Venezuela for the first time provided a timetable for clearance of the antipersonnel mines laid around the Navy posts. The mines around Guafitas Navy post are to be cleared in February 2007; Puerto Páez Navy post in April 2007; Atabapo Navy post in February 2008; Isla Vapor Navy post in April 2008; Arauca River International Navy post in February 2009; Cararabo Navy post in April 2009. Venezuela also revised previously reported dates on which mines were laid in three of the posts.[25]

Venezuela had planned to begin mine clearance operations in February 2002.[26 ] As of August 2005, clearance operations had not started. In April 2005, a military official told Landmine Monitor that Venezuela would not clear the minefields until another protection system for the Navy posts could be established, such as an early alarm system that did not include weapons or explosives.[27 ]

Landmine/UXO Casualties and Survivor Assistance

On 6 September 2004, a 19-year-old marine serving at the Guafitas Navy post stepped on a mine, while clearing bush in an unmarked minefield. The marine was transferred by helicopter to the Military Hospital in San Cristóbal (Táchira state). Two weeks later he was transferred to the Military Hospital in Caracas where his leg was amputated above the knee. The Armed Forces continued to pay the marine a salary, provided him with a prosthesis, and transported him daily to physical and psychological rehabilitation at the Military Hospital of Vargas state.[28 ] In September 2005, the marine’s family told Landmine Monitor that the military was no longer providing transport to rehabilitative services or a salary, and his status within the military was not known.[29]

Venezuela has acknowledged one other marine mine survivor. There are no known civilian landmine survivors in Venezuela.[30]

One incident involving unexploded ordnance was reported by the media in 2004. On 26 February, a 32-year-old man and his two children, aged seven and five, were killed and another man injured after stepping on a buried fragmentation grenade that exploded. The incident occurred near the Infantry battalion Rivas Dávila No. 222, in Félix Sánchez Cánsales municipality, Trujillo state.[31 ]

Venezuela has a national health system with specialized services located in main urban centers, including rehabilitation services.

[1 ]Telephone interview with Victor Manzanares, First Secretary, Security and Disarmament, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Caracas, 4 February 2000.

[2 ]Interview with Farida Yamín, First Secretary, Directorate of Multilateral Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Admiral Alcibíades Jesús Paz, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Caracas, 20 August 2004.

[3] Partial Reform to the Penal Code, Official Gazette, Number 38.148, 16 March 2005.

[4 ]Previous reports were submitted on 10 September 2002 and 15 May 2003.

[5 ]It is a three-page document containing five tables (numbers 1, 2, 8, 3 and 4).

[6 ]Article 7 Report, Form H, 15 May 2003. In the past the US Department of Defense identified Venezuela as the producer of the MV-1 improvised fragmentation antipersonnel mine. In January 2002, Brigadier General José Esteban Godoy Peña told Landmine Monitor that Venezuela had not produced mines, and explained the MV-1 was a mine used by guerrillas in the 1960s, known as trampas caza bobos (“fool-catcher booby traps”).

[7] Article 7 Report, Form B, 15 May 2003.

[8 ]Letter from the Permanent Mission of Venezuela in Geneva to the UN Disarmament Conference Secretariat, 25 November 2003. In September 2002, Venezuela reported a stockpile of 22,136 antipersonnel mines, but in May 2003 reported a revised total of 46,135 antipersonnel mines. Article 7 Report, Form B, 15 May 2003; Article 7 Report, Form B, 10 September 2002. Regarding the difference of 6,054 mines between the number reported in the May 2003 Article 7 report and the number provided to the Secretary-General, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that there were errors in information previously provided. Interview with Farida Yamín, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and with Adm. Alcibíades Jesús Paz, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Caracas, 20 August 2004.

[9] Article 7 Report, Table 1, “Minas destruidas que se encontraban almacenadas,” 4 July 2005. This same information was provided to Landmine Monitor in an email from Yaneth Arocha, First Secretary, Office of the Vice Minister for North America, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 28 June 2005.

[10 ]The ICBL and a number of States Parties had attempted to get confirmation from Venezuela both before and after the 1 October 2003 deadline that Venezuela had met its obligation, but received no response.

[11 ]Article 7 Report, Table 3, “Situación actual de las minas AP,” 4 July 2005.

[12 ]Article 7 Report, note attached to Table 1, “Minas destruidas que se encontraban almacenadas,” and Table 8, “Situación actual de las minas AP,” 4 July 2005.

[13 ]Letter from the Permanent Mission of Venezuela in Geneva to the UN Disarmament Conference Secretariat, 25 November 2003.

[14 ]Interview with Farida Yamín and Adm. Alcibíades Paz, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 20 August 2004.

[15 ]Interview with military official who requested anonymity, 3 December 2004.

[16] Landmine Monitor (MAC) interview with Adm. Alcibíades Paz, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Geneva, 16 June 2005.

[17 ]Article 7 Report, Table 2, “Cuadro de sembrado actual de minas AP,” 4 July 2005.

[18 ]Venezuela’s May 2003 report indicated it laid 20 SB-33 antipersonnel mines in Guafitas in May 1998. Its September 2002 report indicated the number was 58 SB-33 mines. See Article 7 Report, Form C, 15 May 2003 and Article 7 Report, Form C, 10 September 2002.

[19 ]See Landmine Monitor Report 2004, pp. 861-863.

[20 ]See Landmine Monitor Report 2002, p. 520. The local authority told Landmine Monitor that according to media at that time, EPLA was a dissident group of the Colombian National Liberation Army (ELN, Ejército de Liberación Nacional). Telephone interview with Antonio Molina, Prefecto, San Juaquín de Navay, 24 May 2005.

[21] Interviews with Lt. Pérez, Commander, San Juaquín de Navay Army Post, and Daniel Molina, Teacher, San Juaquín de Navay, 22 May 2005; telephone interview with Antonio Molina, Prefecto, San Juaquín de Navay, 24 May 2005.

[22 ]Email from Yaneth Arocha, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 28 June 2005. The number 1,073 is also cited in Article 7 Report, Table 2, “Cuadro de sembrado actual de minas AP,” 4 July 2005.

[23 ]Defensoría del Pueblo, “Informe Annual (Annual Report) 2004,” Caracas, 2005, www.defensoria.gov.ve.

[24 ]“Se designa al Contralmirante Alcibíades Jesús Paz, Coordinador General de los Cursos y Trabajos de Desminados de acuerdo a la Convención sobre la prohibición del empleo, almacenamiento, producción y transferencia de Minas Antipersonal y sobre su destrucción,” Official Gazette, Number 38.004, 19 August 2004.

[25] Article 7 Report, Table 4, “Cronograma de destrucción de campos minados,” 4 July 2005.

[26 ]See Landmine Monitor Report 2003, p. 863.

[27 ]Interview with military official who requested anonymity, 20 April 2005.

[28 ]Interview with Rimy Diego Amundarain Salazar, and his mother Rosalba del Valle Salazar, Barrio Montesano (vicinity of Caracas), Vargas state, 27 May 2005.

[29] Telephone interview with Rosalba del Valle Salazar, 24 September 2005.

[30] See Landmine Monitor Report 2004, p. 864.

[31 ]D’Yahana M. De Bastidas, “Dos niños y su papá murieron al pisar granada” Últimas Noticias, 26 February 2004, p. 16.