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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 15, May 1997

US Ponders New Latin America Arms Sales Policy

Speaking in Bridgetown, Barbados, on 10 May, President Clinton sought to reassure leaders worried about speculation that the US is considering abandoning or significantly moderating its traditional opposition to arms sales to Latin America. The President, however, did not rule out such a change in policy:

"I can tell you that no decision has been made yet... The United States will not knowingly do anything that will spark a new arms race or divert funds from non-defence to defence areas in Latin America. The real question is whether the armies in question...are going to upgrade their militaries anyway, and whether it would be better in fending off future conflicts and controlling defence spending for the United States, the hemispheric partner, to be the main supplier, or someone else."

The issue was raised shortly before the President's visit by the former President of Costa Rica, and Nobel Peace Laureate, Oscar Arias. In a letter published in the Costa Rican newspaper La Nacion, Arias argued passionately:

"It's time that the voices of our boys and girls are heard clamouring for schools and not for arms. And it's time that the arms dealers read the diaries written in our jails by those who suffered torture and mutilation at the hands of our military."

Report: Clinton says no decision on Latam arms sales, Reuters World Service, 10 May.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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