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Council for a Livable World Education Fund and Carter Center Convene Latin American Leaders to Preview Santiago Summit

ATLANTA, GA....Former heads of state from the Western Hemisphere and regional experts on Latin America will meet at The Carter Center on March 25 for the conference "Securing Democracies in the Americas: Preparing for the Santiago Summit."

Latin American leaders at the conference will discuss the agenda for a meeting of 34 presidents and prime ministers at the Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile, April 18-19. The key focus of discussions March 25 will be potential arms control measures as they relate to broader issues of trade, drugs, and poverty alleviation.

"Without a conventional arms restraint agreement, there cannot be permanent peace and progress in the hemisphere," said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who will lead the program with former Costa Rica President Oscar Arias Sanchez and former Bolivia President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada. Other participants will include the Hon. Thomas "Mack" McLarty, counselor to President Bill Clinton; Amb. Sergio Gonzalez Galvez, Mexican undersecretary for foreign relations; and the Hon. Maria Emma Mejia, Colombian foreign minister. The one-day pre-summit conference is sponsored by the Washington, D.C.-based Council for a Livable World Education Fund and the Latin American and Caribbean Program of The Carter Center.

"The most menacing threats to regional stability are poverty, drugs, and illiteracy--problems for which advanced weapons are not the answer," said Tom Cardamone of the Council for a Livable World Education Fund. "An arms control agreement will enable governments to address pressing domestic concerns rather than divert scarce investment capital for weapons."

Following the first Summit of the Americas held in Miami in 1994, governments in the hemisphere proposed a "Plan of Action" outlining steps that needed to be taken to achieve social and economic goals. Last April, The Carter Center's Council of Freely Elected Heads of Government convened a meeting of 16 former and current presidents and prime ministers from the Americas, who identified ways to move the "Plan of Action" forward. Among their findings, the group proposed a two-year moratorium on the purchase of sophisticated weapons in Latin America, during which nations could develop arms restraint agreements to minimize wasteful arms spending. The moratorium has been endorsed by 27 current heads of government, most of whom will attend the Santiago summit.

"The arms trade exacerbates poverty in Latin America," President Arias explained. "The poor of our region are crying out for schools and doctors, not guns and generals."

"The Summit provides an opportunity not merely to congratulate the Americas on progress made in banning weapons of mass destruction and agreeing to confidence building measures, but to grapple with the tough next steps of choosing to limit arms purchases," added Dr. Robert Pastor, director of the Latin American and Caribbean Program at The Carter Center.

EDITORS NOTE: A press conference will be held at 3:30 p.m. on March 25, at which former Presidents Carter, Arias and Sanchez de Lozada will announce conclusions from the day's discussions. Media interested in attending the press conference should contact Deanna Congileo at 404-420-5108. Discussions earlier in the day are closed to the media.

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