HIGHTOWER: Arms Sales to Latin America

An ad for a car repair shop asked: "Why go elsewhere to be cheated? Come here first." Well, we citizens and taxpayers are being cheated by a Clinton administration decision to lift a 20-year ban against selling arms to LatinAmerican governments. This is a policy change that Lockheed Martin and other weapons manufacturers have been lobbying furiously to get,hoping to sell billions worth of tanks, fighter jets and other high-tech weaponry to Latin American generals. On the other hand, those pushing for democracy have dreaded this day, since it opens a new arms race among Latin militaries that have ahistory of using their arsenals against their neighbors and their own struggling people. Yet, in a cynical bit of doublespeak, Clinton actuallysaid he was lifting the arms ban [quote] "to promote stability and security among our neighbors." Security for whom? Not for the impoverished majority who will now be confronted by a military establishment with even more weapons to hold them down. Oh, the weapons-makers say, the region now is controlled by elected civilian governments and the threat of military action is nil. I wish!Unfortunately, from Mexico to Paraguay, the generals still lurk and scheme. Indeed, the first in line to buy weapons is Augusto Pinochet, the notoriously-brutal, former dictator of Chile. While he's no longer dictator, he still heads the military . . . and he's rushed to Lockheed to buy two dozen F-16 jets. These sales cheat us as citizens, because they mock our peaceable principles, turning America into an arms proliferator while we're preaching disarmament. They cheat us as taxpayers, too, since we subsidize these purchases -- by giving money to the generals so they will buy from the Lockheeds. Rep. Nita Lowey wants to reinstate the arms-sale ban . . . and common sense. Call her at 202-225-6506. For more information: Rep. Nita Lowey: 202-225-6506 Source: "Clinton allows Latin America to buy arms" by Bob Deans. Austin American-Statesman: August 4, 1997. "U.S. lifts ban on weapon sales to Latin America" by Steven Lee Myers.New York Times: August 2, 1997. "Lowey criticizes Clinton decision to consider arms sales to Latin America" Press Release from Rep. Lowey's office: August 1,1997.

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