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Surrounded by several dozen Cambridge schoolchildren, Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-Brighton) called for a reduction of arms sales around the world as former Costa Rican President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias looked on.
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School hosted Kennedy and the 1987 Nobel Laureate as part of a response to recent indications that the Clinton Administration is planning to lift the ban on high-tech weapons sales to Latin America.
Both men said that in order to bring peace and prosperity to less-developed nations the United States must readjust its priorities.
"It is unconscionable that 35,000 people die every day of hunger while billions of dollars are thrown away on weapons," Kennedy said while standing in front of a larger-than life mural of King, another winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Both Kennedy and Arias urged the United States to increase its humanitarian aid to developing nations instead of selling them arms.
Arias, who won the Peace Prize for his efforts to end armed conflict in Central America, continues to advocate conflict prevention through the United Nations. The former Costa Rican president said that in the post-Cold War era the primary concern of policymakers should be poverty and not military aggression.
"Who is your enemy?" Arias asked the restless children. "The enemy is poverty and a lack of compassion."
The former president said there is a growing conflict between nations with disparate economic conditions--primarily a division between the northern and southern hemispheres.
"There is no more Cold War between east and west, but there is a cold war between the north and south," Arias said.
Although there were more students behind the podium than adults listening in front of it, several city leaders attended, including Mayor Sheila T. Russell and Superintendent of Schools Mary Lou McGrath.
In her brief remarks Russell mistakenly thanked Kennedy for coming to the "Kennedy" Elementary School.
Kennedy responded that he wouldn't mind changing the school's name from King to Kennedy.
Kennedy is the author of the "Demilitarization Act of 1997," a bill that would require the U.S. government to consider foreign governments' military expenditures before granting loans to those nations.
Although Kennedy is expected to enter the 1998 race for Massachusetts governor over the summer, Kennedy emphasized that this was not a campaign event.
State Attorney General L. Scott Harshbarger '64 is likely to oppose Kennedy in the Democratic primary and is already actively campaigning.
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