bullets August 23

What the Arms Trade Treaty means for Latin America

Written by Maria Pia Devoto APP/SHELAC/Control Arms

Ashley Hammer/Al Jazeera

What the Arms Trade Treaty means for Latin America

A while ago we were gathered around the bed of a five year old girl, named Alice, with her mother Sara and her two brothers, in the unique atmosphere of the house which serves both as a bedroom, a kitchen and a living room.

Sara works all day outside the home and receives assistance but not enough; she is alone, with three children: Alice is in a wheelchair and one of the children has lung problems.

4 years ago, Sara was at her fruit stand, a few blocks from where she lives today, when she was caught in the middle of a shooting, a confrontation between gangs, and Alice, who was very small and curious, got trapped under the body of a gang member; her mother lifted her and found that a bullet has hit her. That bullet pierced her lungs and reached her cord.

Alicia fought for several weeks to live and after many of her mother’s prayers, she won. “God had love and left her to me” said Sara through tears.

There have been many stories like this , especially in El Salvador . This is a result of gangs violently wreaking havoc as previous truces have failed.

 

These common stories of innocent bystanders affected by armed violence reflect a broader national problem. It is estimated, based on survey results, there are over 450 000 weapons in civilian hands in El Salvador. Just over 60% of the weapons circulating in the country do so illegally.

The large number of weapons in civilian hands in the country is explained by:

  1. The remnants of weapons used in the war
  2. a poorly regulated legal trade, leading to a large illegal trade
  3. in addition, a lack of import controls for weapons and ammunition

 

These stories are what drives us to work towards the universalization and implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty. This is particularly important for Latin America. For Latin America, the Arms Trade Treaty isn’t just a written UN documents, it means a difference between life and death .Various countries in Latin America have the highest homicide rates in the world.

Organised crime, drug trafficking and narco-insurgency are a common feature of daily life in many Latin American countries due to the widespread availability and misuse of weapons.

Thankfully , Latin America has taken a lead in supporting the establishment and development of the Arms Trade Treaty.

Stronger implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty on a national and regional level means less horrific stories of violence carried out against innocent civilians and citizens . This human cost of violence motivates us to push for stronger application of this treaty and an end to armed violence. And hopefully over time, one day we can change these stories of violence to stories of hope.

Maria Pia Devoto APP/SHELAC/Control Arms, this story along with many others can be found in the Access to Justice Project, promoted by APP Argentina and the Survivors Network of El Salvador with assistance from AOAV.

 

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