DECEMBER 1984 / JANUARY 1985 - VOLUME 5. NO 12 / VOLUME 6, NO. 1
Fueling the Fire
Suppliers of the Central American Warbased on "Up In Arms," from NARMIC
In 1976 candidate Jimmy Carter denounced "our nation's role as the world's leading arms salesman, " rejecting the logic of those who try "to justify this unsavory business on the cynical ground that by rationing out the means of violence we can somehow control the world's violence." As President, Carter first moved to curtail the weapons traffic but ended up approving continual exceptions to his own rule. Ronald Reagan came to office with another rule, a return to the gunbarrel diplomacy that has made the U.S. arms trade a $20 billion industry.
In economic terms, the Central American arms market is small change, dwarfed by Israel, Egypt, Turkey and many others as a consumer of US. weaponry. Nevertheless, the helicopters, grenades and night vision devices that bolster the armies of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras-and keep the contras roaming through the Nicaraguan countryside-are laded with political and human rights significance that eclipses the numbers on their price tag.
When schoolhouses are shelled in Nicaragua and villages bombed in El Salvador it is US. hardware that does the job. While political ire focuses on the White House and the Pentagon, the companies that supply the tools of war--many of them well-known consumer product firms such as General Electric, Motorola and Cessna--usually escape the spotlight.
In an effort to put some brand name logos on the olive drab we present the following short directory of companies that supply goods and services for the Central American war. It is a modified version of "Up in Arms: US. Military Shipments to Central America, A Guide for Activists" produced by NARMIC (National Action/Research on the Military Industrial Complex) of the American Friends Service Committee.
Some of the firms listed deal directly with the Central American governments while others supply the Pentagon which then determines country-by-country allocations. The list is far from complete, but gives a sense of the breadth of equipment and enterprise involved.
For fiscal 1986, the Reagan administration is requesting $133 million in direct military aid to El Salvador, $88 million for Honduras and $10 million for Guatemala. This is in addition to Economic Support Funds-cash security assistance often used by governments to free up resources far military purposes--totalling $210 million for El Salvador, $80 million for Honduras and $25 million for Guatemala. The CIA has funneled an estimated $80 million to the Nicaraguan contras since 1980 and Reagan is pressing for $14 million more. Since Congress voted down the contra funds last year, the anti--Sandinista forces have received anywhere from $10 to $20 million through private sources.
The S10 million military aid request for Guatemala is part of an administration campaign to rebuild direct U.S. support for the hemisphere's worst human rights violator. U.S. aid was cut back in 1977 under human rights pressure from Congress and the Carter State Department. Since then, some military equipment has made its way to Guatemala, though mostly through civilian commercial channel
The most notable transfer occurred during 1981-82 when Bell Helicopter, with Commerce Department permission, replenished the Guatemalan fleet with 23 new, civilian-model copiers that, with the advice of Bell trainers. were promptly outfitted with heavy machine guns and rushed into the field
There, according to Congressman Michael Barnes and numerous human rights monitors the helicopters were used to bomb and strafe unarmed villagers in a series of rural massacres.
Since the 1977 US. aid cutback, the bulk of Guatemala's military equipment has come from Israel The Galil rifle, Uzi submachine gun and Arava transport plane are now bulwarks of the Guatemalan army. Israeli technicians have also helped establish a military telecommunications school and served as field advisers for the hemisphere's bloodiest counterinsurgency.
On June 15, 1984, the administration brought the arms trade to a new plane of candor with the issuance of a Commerce Department Commodity Control List authorizing, in section 5999B, the licensed export of "specially designed implements of torture. "
The authorization, brought to light by John Kelly, editor of National Reporter magazine, was explained by the administration as a human rights effort to bring the trade of torture implements under orderly regulation. The Commerce List includes a provision noting that licenses are not required for torture exports to `Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and members of NATO"-an alliance that includes the government of Turkey.