- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 30, 2001

America's attention abroad is naturally focused on Afghanistan, but the signs emerging from Latin America's Andean countries in terms of terrorism, political instability and drug trafficking are growing ominous. What makes these problems particularly alarming is not only their geographical proximity to the United States, but also their resonance within America's borders.
Sadly, there is no shortage of Americans who can attest to the human tragedy of drug addiction and the impact on U.S. financial institutions, the corrosive corruption that follows in its wake, and the budgetary outlays that go toward fighting the problem.
In the Andean region, meanwhile, terrorism and drug-trafficking have become increasingly tied, as narco-terrorists, armed with sophisticated weapons and a thin veneer of ideological motivations, become involved in all aspects of the underground trade. These narco-terrorist are spreading their tentacles within Latin America and throughout the rest of the world.
One of Latin America's bloodiest guerrilla-terrorist groups, the Shining Path, is trying to stage a comeback in Peru, and it is being backed by the deep pockets of Colombian drug-traffickers, who are providing the Peruvian terrorists with poppy seed and arms. In a recent meeting with editors and reporters of The Washington Times, Peru's ambassador to the United States, Allan Wagner, attested to the terrorists' resurgence. "Of course this social unrest provides the opportunity for them to be active again," Mr. Wagner said, pointing to the frustration that ongoing economic hardship has provoked. But he added that Peruvians' memory of the Shining Path's brutality hasn't faded. "The experience of the Shining Path in Peru has been terrible, and those that suffered the most were the poor people. They were enslaved." For more than 12 years, mostly during the 1980s, 30,000 Peruvians died in Shining Path-related conflict.
Peruvians surely don't want to return to that bloody era, so the Peruvian government feels an urgency to revitalize the economy in order to stave off a potential stampede back to the coca and poppy fields. As "we succeed in fighting drugs and terrorism in Colombia … drug-traffickers are trying to come back to Bolivia and Peru," Mr. Wagner said. Naturally, this is causing a challenge for recently elected President Alejandro Toledo, who succeeded Alberto Fujimori's 10-year autocracy in July.
The Toledo administration believes that freer trade with America is instrumental to building greater economic opportunities in Peru, and for this reason it is requesting a renewal and expansion of the trade preferences of the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA), which was introduced in 1991 by the first Bush administration as a means to create non-drug-related jobs in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. The act expired Dec. 4. "Why subsidize our social programs when you can create jobs?" Mr. Wagner reasonably asked.
Some senators are opposed to allowing Peru to export these goods to America and are holding up the bill. Surely, these legislators are seeking to protect American industries, but they should also be asking themselves whether it isn't in America's interest to have Peru export shirts and sweaters, rather than cocaine or heroin.

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