Mr. Buffett and a delegation from his Foundation were able to witness firsthand the capabilities and commitment of the Colombian Army with respect to humanitarian demining efforts in Planadas, Tolima and at the Tolemaida military base. “It is clear to me from what I’ve witnessed first-hand on my visit that the Colombian military is the absolute best organization to be doing this kind of work in Colombia,” said Mr. Buffett, while announcing the USD 22 million in support of the Colombian government’s goal to be a mine-free country by 2021.
“The professionalism, expert technical skills, logistics management and longstanding relationships with the communities are essential elements to being effective in humanitarian demining and to delivering long-term benefits to the Colombian people,” noted Mr. Buffett. “We leave Colombia very optimistic that this Humanitarian Demining Brigade can provide the fundamental security and essential government presence in the rural areas of Colombia that will make rural development possible,” Mr. Buffett concluded.
During his visit to Planadas, Tolima, a municipality that for years was among the most affected territories by the conflict in the country, Mr. Buffett was able to directly observe the work that the Humanitarian Demining Brigade of the National Army has been doing in the area since last year as well as the positive social impact it has had on the community.
In the company of General Alberto Jose Mejía, General Commander of the Colombian National Army; Deputy Defense Minister Aníbal Fernández de Soto; and Mr. Sergio Londoño, General Director of the Presidential Cooperation Agency, APC-Colombia, Mr. Buffett and the Foundation delegation arrived at the village of San Miguel where demining activities are currently being carried out by the Army’s Humanitarian Demining Brigade in the middle of the mountains.
Mr. Buffett and the delegation participants were able to observe the dangerous risks that each one of the soldiers of this brigade faces when handling anti-personnel mines, an exercise which requires a high degree of technical expertise and bravery. Mr. Buffett praised the work and courage of each soldier who is part of this process, saying "I respect the work they do and their commitment to saving lives. They are true heroes.”
At the demonstration in Planadas, soldiers from the Humanitarian Demining Brigade explained that thanks to The Howard G. Buffett’s Foundation’s donation of USD 16.1 million announced on May 24, 2017, they are already changing the lives of thousands of Colombians who can now walk and work on their land without fear. Members of the San Miguel community agreed and thanked Mr. Buffett for his help in ensuring the safety and social and economic progress of their community.
Later in the day Mr. Buffett and the Foundation delegation were also able to observe the high degree of technical training at the Tolemaida military base through a comprehensive demonstration and briefing provided by the Humanitarian Demining Brigade. Mr. Buffett and his team also met with President Santos at Casa Nariño.
Thanks to the additional USD 22 million the Howard G. Buffett Foundation will invest through a cooperation agreement with APC-Colombia, the Colombian’s National Army's Humanitarian Demining Brigade will gain significant ground in meeting the government’s goal of having a mine-free Colombia by 2021.
The donation by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation represents an opportunity for other countries that are supporting Colombia's demining issue to honor their pledges in order to help Colombians live in a land free of mines. Currently, more than 20 countries contribute to humanitarian demining in Colombia, but this significant donation from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation marks the first time that private philanthropy has contributed to this effort by supporting the Government of Colombia directly, whose soldiers are Colombian citizens and local partners with community stakeholders, demonstrating Mr. Buffett’s and his Foundation’s commitment to a real and lasting peace in post-conflict Colombia.