from Demilitarization for Democracy's internet site


Washington, April 28.

A report released today says that in 1997 the Clinton administration set a record for exports of arms and training to dictatorships. The Washington research center Demilitarization for Democracy identified $8.3 billion in U.S. military exports to 52 countries where the State Department says citizens are not allowed to choose their government democratically. The center's director, Caleb Rossiter, said that records were also set in 1997 for overall U.S. arms exports, at $21.3 billion, and exports to developing nations, at $15.6 billion.

The non-democratic recipients listed in the report, Arms Uncontrol, range from Algeria to Zimbabwe. The largest recipients are: Saudi Arabia ($4.7 billion), Kuwait ($1.4 billion), Egypt ($1.2 billion), Thailand ($217 million), and Pakistan ($205 million). The report also lists 47 non-democratic regimes in which 3,908 soldiers and officers received U.S. military training in courses and exercises in 1997.

At a Capitol Hill briefing on the report, Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) discussed legislative initiatives to control military assistance to repressive regimes: "The trend in U.S. military exports is alarming. If the Administration doesn't put the brakes on military transfers to dictators, Congress will."

Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) recalled his involvement in successful efforts in 1990 to help end El Salvador's ten-year civil war: "I fear that our loose export rules may be convincing foreign leaders that we're not really serious about democracy. In El Salvador, our goals were undercut by our arms transfers. I would hate to see that happen in any other country."

Jan Willem Bertens, the Dutch Member of the European Parliament who drafted the European Union's new Arms Trade Code of Conduct, called on the United States to join that initiative, and follow its human rights guidelines in deciding which governments should receive military exports. In the report's foreword, Bertens and Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias, the former President of Costa Rica, said: "U.S. foreign policy promises a new era of democracy and human rights, but this promise is subjugated to the demands of arms-exporting corporations."

The British American Security Information Council (BASIC) and the British research center Saferworld released a memorandum on the European Union's Code of Conduct and its success in blocking arms transfers to unstable governments. BASIC's Kate Joseph said: "The conflict in Kosovo shows what can happen when repressive regimes are provided with the means of violence. Without an effective international Code of Conduct, we will be facing more of these crises in the near future."

Speakers at the briefing included Tom Cardamone of the Council for a Livable World Education Fund, who presented a report on prospects for arms trade talks in Latin America, and Amnesty International's Steve Rickard, who presented a Code of Conduct endorsed by Amnesty International and 16 other Nobel Peace Laureates. General Robert G. Gard Jr. (USA-ret.) of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation issued a statement on the report: "These exports to shady characters can come back to bite us, as they did in Somalia and, more recently, in Angola, where our hopes for a settlement went up in smoke because of rebels we armed a decade ago."


For Further Information Contact:
Paul Olweny
Demilitarization for Democracy
2001 S Street, NW, Suite 630

Tel: (202) 319-7191 x11
FAX: (202) 319-7194

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