Latin American Guns R' Us

In Latin America, violence associated with small weapons has metastasized across the hemisphere. Millions of pistols, revolvers, machine guns and other light weapons that originated from the hands of government forces have worked their way into the hands of private citizens wanting to protect themselves, counter-military forces, drug cartels and urban gangs working against those in power. This proliferation has not only helped created private security system, but also has intensified human rights abuses. The source of many of these weapons is the United StatesÑthrough lax gun control laws, weak law enforcement, legal governmental arms sales and such covert arms sales as was uncovered during the Iran-Contra scandal. But Latin American production and trade of weapons also is emerging as countries attempt to attain economic and military self-sufficiency. Israel, European countries and the former Soviet Union also contributed their share. During the Cold War era, arms sales from the U.S. and the Soviet Union were high. Firepower aid was regarded as foreign policy by the superpowers as they vied for allies in friendly regions. Between 1950 and 1969, the U.S. alone spent $660 million on military aid to Latin America. "There is a very close relationship between the diffusion of arms and the pervasiveness of violence in Latin America," write authors Michael Klare and David Andersen in A Scourge of Guns. "The fact that both state and non-state actors have access to such an abundance of firepower has contributed in many ways to the rise of lawlessness, brutality, and bloodshed." Collecting information for this bookÑwhich explores who's distributing arms, how weapons are distributed, and possible solutions to the problemÑwas a challenge for Klare and Andersen, because information on the black market and government trade is slim. Working with the local press, regional scholars, trade statistics and official government records to compile their information was worth it: They've created a comprehensive study on light arms proliferation, while calling for increased documentation and access to information on light weapons. Their other recommendations to solve this problem include enhanced export controls, suppression of illicit arms trafficking, and demilitarization and disarmament. Until these things are achieved, the authors reason, democracy in these countries will be hindered, violence will propagate, and the drug trade will continue.To read more on this subject, order A Scourge of Guns by sending $15 payable to the FAS Fund to Federation of American Scientists/Arms Sales Monitoring Project 307 Massachusetts Ave., NE, Washington, DC 20002.

#story_page_ below_article

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.