The Nobel Peace Prize-winning former President of Costa Rica Oscar Arias was in Seattle the other day and said in a gentle voice to a roomful of nicely dressed folks gathered downtown at the refined Washington Athletic Club that “your government is the most dangerous government on Earth.”
Humanosphere caught up with him to do a video and Q & A, posted below.
Arias — in town to do a commencement speech for UW Bothell, among other speaking events — had plenty of praise for the United States, for the generous and enterprising spirit of Americans.
But he also couldn’t help noting our country’s history of “supporting military dictatorships,” of only doing foreign aid when we can see how it helps us and, as the world’s leading arms dealer and military power, of exporting violence. Recalling his long and successful struggle to bring peace decades ago to a war-torn Central America, he said:
“I used to say that the world’s superpowers supply the weapons and we in Latin America supply the bodies.”
He actually still says that, or something like it. I caught up with Arias when he spoke at the WAC, at an event on Friday sponsored by the Seattle International Foundation (one of my sponsors as well) that was co-hosted by the World Affairs Council.
One curious moment came after Arias spoke and posed for photos. One of those photo poses is shown up top right, with Arias standing next to Arnold Candray, a former military intelligence man for the Reagan Administration who said his job was focused on undermining leaders like Arias who — from the US government’s perspective at the time — were putting the hemisphere at risk of infiltration by the Soviet Union.
“Yeah, we didn’t like him at the time,” acknowledged Candray.
But times change. Arias – who was criticized during his efforts to end the civil wars raging across Central America by the right wing as a tool for the Soviet-backed commies and also by the left as a proxy for US-backed imperialists – was willing to sit down and talk about what has been accomplished, and what more needs to be done to further progress in Latin America: