Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla bans Uranium Weapons
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Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla bans Uranium Weapons

Rio de Janeiro : Brazil | Jun 16, 2011 at 3:48 AM PDT
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Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla talks during a press conference

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla bans Uranium Weapons

Interview with Uranium-238 expert Damacio A. Lopez

Uranium weapons pose a serious risk to civilians and their use runs counter to several principles of international humanitarian law. The United Nations Human Rights Sub-Committee has condemned them as weapons of indiscriminate effect with long-term consequences for the environment and human health. On April 27th, the Congress of Costa Rica passed a law prohibiting uranium weapons in its territories, becoming the second country in the world to do so. Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla now formalized the law that prohibits the use, trade, transit, production, distribution and storage of uranium weapons on Costa Rican territory.

Interview with Damacio A. Lopez, Executive Director of International Depleted Uranium Study Team (IDUST), a non-governmental organization of researchers, activists, soldiers, doctors, and scientists. He was not only the major force behind the Costa Rican ban of U-Weapons. Damacio A. Lopez also has authored and co-authored many respected works about the subject, including the book "Friendly Fire, the Link Between Depleted Uranium Munitions and Human Health Risk" and the documentary "Uranium 238", which last May won the Award of the International Uranium Film Festival of Rio de Janeiro 2011.

Norbert Suchanek: What is depleted uranium 238?

Damacio A. Lopez: Radioactive waste produced by the nuclear power industry.

Why it is used in weapons, bombs and bullets?

Because it is free and the bullet or projectile friction burns when they strikes the target.

What are the effects or consequences of the use U-238 arms?

The effects are that it destroys targets and the consequences are that it releases a radioactive and toxic smoke or gas that can be inhaled or ingested.

Therefore battlefields in Ex-Yugoslavia, Iraq and may be now in Libya became radioactive...

Any battlefield where DU is used becomes contaminated for 4.5 billion years

Who is most affected?

Whoever comes in contact with DU will be negatively affected

The soldiers become ill too?

Soldiers are usually the first to be contaminated whether they fire the weapon or are the target, it is the same case that took place in Flanders Field during world war I in Belgium where poison gases where used by both the German and the allied forces. There was one big cloud of gas poisoning both sides and the local civilian population as well.

Which countries are using U-238 arms?

There are more than 18 countries that have these weapons, the USA and Great Britain use the weapon regularly, it is difficult to know what other countries have used the weapons since they keep this a secrete knowing that they would be violating international norms when they use the weapon. One of the reasons we know that USA and Britain have used the weapon is because independent researchers have gone into war zones with giger counters and taken out samples for analysis, (I did this in Irak, Kosovo and Palestine). Later the UN has sent in teams to verify the findings of the independent researchers

Since when do you fight against these "in-human" weapons?

I began this work in 1985 when I discovered that DU weapons were being tested less than 2 kilometers from my home by a state supported university called, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (NMIMT) in Socorro, New Mexico

Your mission is a global ban of U-238 arms, a ban by the United Nation?

My goal is an International treaty banning these weapons.

Belgium was the first country, which banned these Weapons. Now Costa Ricans

President signed the ban of U-238-Arms, which was in a great part because of your work. What is the next step?

My next step is to locate a country that will be interested in banning these weapons and I will be happy to go to their country and help in what way I can

You have been recently in Rio de Janeiro at the International Uranium Film Festival, where the documentary "Uranium 238: The Pentagon's Dirty Pool" by Pablo Ortega won the award for the best short film. Do you think that Brazils President Dilma Rousseff could follow her Costa Rican colleague?

It would be wonderful if Brazil would follow Costa Rica's lead.

 

Thanks for the interview!

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Costa Rican presidential candidate Laura Chinchilla
Costa Rican presidential candidate Laura Chinchilla
RioDeJaneiroCorrespondent is based in Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and is a Stringer on Allvoices.
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