"My father was 79," says Donaldo Gomez, who lives in the steep Andes Mountains of Colombia. "He wasn't sick a day in his life. And then he gets killed by a mine!"
Gomez, whose father died in 2003, lives in an area that was once swarming with guerrillas. When the Colombian army moved into the region a few years ago, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, planted land mines to try to stop them. The same thing happened in many parts of the country.
As a result, some 11,000 Colombians have been killed or injured by mines over the past 25 years. These days, only Afghanistan racks up more annual land mine casualties: 451 people killed and injured in the past year. Colombia's total for deaths and injuries last year was 285, including 45 children.
But now things are starting to change. After 51 years, Colombia's guerrilla war is finally winding down. The Colombian government and Marxist rebels are holding peace talks in Cuba and have taken several steps to scale back the bloodshed — including a plan for the army and the FARC guerrillas to work together to locate and destroy rebel land mines. (The army got rid of its mines a decade ago.)
FARC has also called a unilateral cease-fire and has pledged to stop recruiting children under the age of 17. For its part, the Colombian military has halted bombing raids on guerrilla targets. Analysts say these moves show that the two sides are getting closer to a final peace treaty.
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