U.S. Reviews Latin American Arms Sale Policy
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
Bariloche, Argentina, Oct. 9, 1996 The United States is reviewing its Latin American arms sale policy now that most nations in the region are democracies, according to U.S. Defense Secretary William J. Perry.
The current policy prohibits sale of such advanced weapon systems as F-16 fighter jets to countries in the region, DoD officials said. U.S. officials are now considering selling advanced weapons to Latin American nations on a case-by-case basis, Perry said at a press conference here Oct. 8.Perry and defense leaders from 33 other nations attended the Defense Ministerial of the Americas here Oct. 6 to 9. The arms sale policy was not discussed during the meeting. Perry addressed the policy during a press conference and news interviews.
Perry stressed to the media the U.S. policy has not yet changed but is under review. If the policv were to change to a case-by-case basis, he said, the watchword would be "restraint." "We would not want to encourage an arms race or sell arms to nations in conflict with their neighbors, "Perry said. "But we do think nations have a right to have a defense and a right to modernize equipment in their armed forces."
Political changes in the region led U.S. officials to reconsider the policy, Perry said. "The original policy was created at a time when there were many military dictatorships in the region, when there were many countries in confict with each other," he said.
"Now we have 34 democratic nations, and border disputes are becoming a thing of the past," he said. "We do not see these countries as threats to others, and they do not see themselves as threats to each other."
A case-by-case policy would not single out sales to Latin American nations from other countries around the world, Perry said. U.S. officials do a stringent case-by-case review and base decisions on security policy considerations not economics, he said.