Peace activist speaks about controlling small trade arms

By on November 2, 2005

“Instead of talking about the famous battles, why don’t we talk about the famous moments of peace?”

These words pierced a packed Alumni Hall on Oct. 29, as Luis Alberto Cordero, executive director of the Arias Foundation, a San Jose, Costa Rica based nonprofit organization dedicated to the regulation of the small arms industry, capped a speech in which he implored students and community members to tell government officials to take actions to curb the transaction of guns. The foundation’s namesake comes from former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, for whom Cordero was a vice president from 1986 to 1990.

As vice president, Cordero would often be asked by foreign leaders why the Central American nation refused to draft an army, especially considering the war that raged in bordering Nicaragua between forces loyal to the Anastasio Somoza dictatorship and the Sandinistas members in the 1980s.

His answer to the leaders was that “we would rather build schools than build guns.”

The principle reason for such a mindset is that human life is sacred and that people should resolve their differences through peaceful means.

The reason most country’s governments engage in gun transactions is simply because of the enormous money involved in the trade, he said. Globally, governments collectively spend in excess of $1 trillion annually on their militaries.

Cordero told the audience about The Arms Trade Treaty, a joint project of Amnesty International, Oxfam, and the International Action Network on Small Arms that seeks to eliminate the buying and selling of guns. More than 30 nations had expressed support for the treaty as of July 2005. The United States is not one of those nations.

“This current administration prefers to go it alone. Calling itself ‘unilateral’ sounds better than calling it by another name: ‘uncooperative,'” Cordero said.

Millions of people die of gunshot wounds annually, Cordero said. The treaty “may not be able to end the world’s violence, but it’s at least a step in the right direction,” Cordero said.


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