- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2003

Peruvian Vice President Raul Diez Canseco has assured international investors that his country is safe despite the recent kidnapping of 71 pipeline workers by Shining Path guerrillas.

He also vowed that his government would “eliminate” all drug-trafficking terrorists.

“Terrorists and narco-traffickers will not get anywhere in Peru,” Mr. Diez Canseco told reporters Thursday during a trade-related visit to Washington.

He said Lima intended to boost its intelligence gathering with the help of the United States to fight the groups he said persisted in the area.

“We are not going to underestimate them. We are going to confront them. Our objective is to eliminate them,” he said.

The pipeline workers taken hostage Monday at a remote construction camp some 50 miles from the southern Andean city of Ayacucho, were released Tuesday when a 500-strong contingent of military and police swooped into the area in helicopters.

Mr. Diez Canseco said the hostage-taking was carried out by the Shining Path, a Maoist guerrilla movement that terrorized and killed thousands of peasants during the presidency of Alberto Fujimori before his government captured its leader, Abimael Guzman.

He declined to detail what kind of assistance the United States would provide.

The workers were employed by the Argentina conglomerate Techint, contracted to develop Peru’s giant Camisea natural-gas exploration project.

The gas line is an immensely important project for Peru, and the kidnapping shook President Alejandro Toledo’s government, which moved quickly to assure the international community that the attack did not signify a return to the terrorist upheaval of the 1980s.

During that time the Shining Path, or Sendero Luminoso, took control of large portions of the countryside as it waged war against the government, leaving 30,000 people dead.

The Camisea project is made up of a $600 million natural gas field development component, a $800 million natural gas and liquids pipeline component, and a $50 million natural gas distribution network.

Mr. Diez Canseco, who also serves as Peru’s commerce and tourism minister, said he expected the Inter-American Development Bank and U.S. Ex-Im Bank to approve final funding for the Camisea project by the end of July — $80 million and $100 million respectively.

While in Washington, the vice president was to take part in a closed-door day-long retreat yesterday with a number of Latin American trade officials and U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick.

Mr. Diez Canseco said Peru hoped to clinch a bilateral Free Trade Agreement with the United States similar to the deal struck between the United States and Chile.

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