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Campaign Targets Firearms

December 24, 2004

“ARMS! No, thanks! Arms are destructive” isthe slogan of a new campaign against firearmslaunched by the Arias Foundation for Peace andHuman Progress on International Day of HumanRights, Dec. 10.The highlight of the inauguration, held the samedate former President Oscar Arias (1986-1990)received his Nobel Peace Prize in 1987, was a sneakpreview of the documentary “The Arms ofViolence.”Produced by the Arias Foundation with supportfrom the Japanese government, the 62-minute documentarypresents statistics, testimonials and interviewsabout gun violence in the region.The documentary, filmed throughout CentralAmerica and directed by Costa Rican Rodrigo Soto,forms part of the foundation’s “Safe School, SafeCommunity Program,” an initiative that seeks to disseminatea message of peace to youth in public highschools throughout the country.The program will teach strategies to prevent andmanage violence in youth.ACCORDING to Arias Foundation ExecutiveDirector Luis Alberto Cordero, who spoke at theinauguration, small firearms produce more deathsnow than the Central American wars did during the 1980s. The anti-arms campaign attempts tofoster awareness about the large number ofillegal weapons in the region.According to the foundation, CostaRica has an estimated 280,000 illegalweapons, in addition to the country’s43,241 registered firearms.Other alarming statistics gathered bythe foundation show that 70% of violentdeaths in Central America, excluding caraccidents, are caused by firearms, and onein every three gunshot victims dies in theirown home.The program includes teacher trainingto prepare educators for viewing and analyzingthe documentary with their students.Because the video includes sensitivecontent, students are expected to discuss itwith their teachers through the aid of booklets,posters and teaching material preparedand distributed by the AriasFoundation.“IT’S important that teachers undergo atraining process – students need to preparefor what they’re going to see, and after thedocumentary, it is important they reflectabout the origins of violence,” said AnaYancy Espinoza, coordinator of the foundation’sCentral America Dialogue Program.Espinoza said 60% of gun-relateddeaths result from people who know eachother.The school initiative is scheduled tobegin in Costa Rica next February, at thestart of the academic year. Espinoza saidfoundation representatives in the rest ofCentral America must coordinate with therespective governments in each country toset a start date for their national campaignsagainst firearms, which will also includeTV ads.“When we watch the documentaryhere, it is easy to imagine the situation isworse in El Salvador or Guatemala, butthe problem is serious in Costa Rica aswell,” Espinoza said.The Arias Foundation has requestedfunding from the United NationsRegional Center for Peace, Disarmamentand Development in Latin America andthe Caribbean to produce a set of 10- to15-minute documentaries for each CentralAmerican country. Espinoza said the centeris expected to approve the funding inJanuary.Costa Rican First Lady Leila Pacheco– filling in for President Abel Pacheco,who confirmed his assistance but cancelledfor unknown reasons – Oscar Arias,Minister of Justice Patricia Vega, JapaneseAmbassador Yoshihiko Sumi, and membersof the diplomatic corps attended theinauguration, at the Cine Magaly in downtownSan José.“ACCORDING to the OIJ (JudicialInvestigation Police), having guns in a homeincreases chances that they will be usedagainst a member of the family by 20%,”Justice Minister Vega said at the event.In his speech, Sumi cited the directorof the National Symphony Orchestra, aJapanese citizen who was recently muggedin San José by four armed youth.“If they had carried violins instead ofarms, this act of violence never would havehappened,” Sumi quoted.The Arias Foundation is a non-profitorganization founded in 1987 with fundsfrom Arias’ Nobel Peace Prize. The foundationhas dedicated the past 16 years topromoting democracy, gender equality anddisarmament in Central America.For info about showing the Spanishlanguagedocumentary in your community,call 224-1919.

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