San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Gun Factory Plan May Be Shot Down

Venezuelan arms distributors Michel andGorka Ibáñez are reconsidering their plan to openCosta Rica’s first gun factory, after the brothers’proposal sparked fierce opposition among governmentofficials and private organizations.According to Gorka Ibáñez, who was in thecountry last week, the opposition generated by theproposed manufacturing plant, M&G Arms, willnot allow him to open it here, because “if there is noharmony, you cannot work.”Although he said he has not yet decided for surewhether to suspend the “arms part” of his factory, anddedicate the Costa Rican plant solely to manufacturingbulletproof vests, Ibáñez told The Tico Times he is nowconsidering the Dominican Republic as another optionfor opening the gun-assembly factory.ASKED whether he had any moral concerns abouthis line of business, Ibáñez answered that “arms willexist our entire lives and we need to regulate them.”He also asked, “If Costa Rica is a country of peace,why do police carry guns everywhere?”The company rented warehouse number 18 at theGrupo Z Industrial Park in the eastern province of Cartago for the purpose of assemblingsports and security guns and bulletproofvests from imported materials.M&G Arms, whose annual profits wereexpected to amount to more than $1 million,would operate with “absolute respect”for Costa Rica’s norms and regulations,Ibáñez told The Tico Times.“A total of 98% of our exports wouldhave gone to the Latin American market,which is in great need of accessibleprices,” he added.Ibáñez and his legal advisor, RobertoHung, said they might have sold theirproducts to the Costa Rican police forceand gun stores that currently import theseitems from abroad.“The security industry in Costa Ricawould have benefited economically froma direct purchase of these products,”Ibáñez said.The businessman, who said he selectedCosta Rica as a choice location because ofits stable economy, strong respect for ruleof law, geographic location as a doorway toSouth America, and its excellent laborforce when compared to other LatinAmerican countries, expressed his distastefor what he called the “erroneous impressionsthat were disseminated” by the dailyAl Día in previous weeks.“Suddenly, without the slightestproof, we were being catalogued assmugglers. Although the current governmentis not to blame, there appear to behidden interests in this situation,” Ibáñezpointed out.HIS legal representative in Costa Rica,Carlos Echeverría from Bufete EcheverríaInterlex, accused Laura Chinchilla, legislatorfor the National Liberation Party(PLN), of “doublespeak” in her speechbefore the Legislative Assembly early lastmonth opposing the proposed gun factory(TT, Nov. 12).Chinchilla asked the assembly toremember Costa Rica has “bannered aninternational policy in favor of disarmament”and said every 30 seconds, someonein the world is killed by gunfire, and every40 seconds, someone commits suicide witha firearm.Echeverría pointed out that CostaRica’s current arms law, which allows thefactory to operate, was approved in 1995,when Chinchilla was Vice-Minister ofPublic Security.“She went on to serve as PublicSecurity Minister after holding this position.Why didn’t she say something againstthis law back then?” Echeverría questioned.“Politicians in this country havedouble standards.”ACCORDING to Article 75 of the1995 Arms Law, “the manufacture ofpermitted arms by prestigious companiesis allowed so long as they possess thenecessary quality and security requirements,as well as the requirements theRisk Management Law demands, healthpermits, and comply with other worklaws.”Article 20 lists non-automatic pistolsand revolvers from 5.6 to 18.5 mm caliber,semi-automatic pistols and revolvers of upto 11.53 mm caliber, rifles of up to 18.5mm caliber, sports and hunting guns, andother arms as “permitted weapons.”Chinchilla told The Tico Times it isnecessary to change the law, because itdoes not prohibit the manufacture ofarms.Regarding Echeverría’s criticism, she said it is necessary to put it in perspective.“The law (of 1995) was a developmentin terms of what we had in the countryback then,” she said, adding, “we hadnever been confronted with a situation likethis” in reference to the opening of an armsfactory.CHINCHILLA has proposed legislationto prohibit the opening of this or anyarms factory in Costa Rica, on the groundsthat the country has a tradition of peaceand lacks the security measures requiredby companies dedicated to the manufactureof firearms.Public Security Minister RogelioRamos, whose legal advisor is JohnnyEcheverría, Carlos Echeverría’s father andaccording to Ramos, “completely unrelatedto the issue at hand” since he is notassisting his son in the advisory of theIbáñez brothers, said the Security Ministryhas “made known its rejection of the armsproject to all interested parties.”Ramos said the ministry would supporta reform to the Arms Law of 1995.“We must advance into a society wherethe use of arms has more restrictive connotations,so they will not pass into the handsof criminals,” he said Wednesday, shortlybefore destroying several guns as part ofthe ceremony commemorating the abolitionof Costa Rica’s army in 1948 (see separatearticle).EUGENIA Zamora, director of theArias Foundation for Peace and HumanProgress, a non-profit organization foundedin 1988 by Nobel Peace laureate and formerPresident Oscar Arias (1986-1990),expressed the institution’s opposition to thegun factory.Zamora cited Arias in 1987, when hestood before the United Nations GeneralAssembly and declared “I come from acountry of no arms, where our children havenever seen a war tank.”“In principle, Costa Rica cannot be acountry that exports arms,” she said.THE National Association ofEducators (ANDE) also expressed oppositionto the opening of M&G Arms, andasked the government and legislators todiscourage the initiative.“If the army was abolished in our countryit doesn’t make sense to side with theobjectives of this company, which goesagainst the principles of our democracy,”said association president Eduardo Rojas.ANDE, created in 1942 to watch overthe rights of public educators, has 52,000members. The association is willing to initiatea campaign that may include protests,Rojas said, if the gun factory plan advances.

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