- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 24, 2002

LIMA, Peru President Bush yesterday promised to triple anti-drug aid to Peru but warned that the new funds won't be effective unless Americans stop using the cocaine and heroin that originate in this impoverished Andean nation.
"As demand for drugs goes down, it'll take the pressure off of our friends in Peru," Mr. Bush said at a joint press conference with Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo. "So we've got a double obligation, it seems like to me."
The president said the first part of this obligation is to increase anti-drug aid dramatically to $195 million a year.
"But I want to remind our Peruvian friends that we've got to do a better job at home of convincing Americans to stop using drugs," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Toledo acknowledged selfish reasons for wanting to eradicate the drug trade.
"I want to be very open, and I apologize to my friend President Bush now," he said in the ornate Presidential Palace. "We are not fighting against drug trafficking in order to satisfy the United States or Europe. Drug trafficking, in partnership with terrorism, is an issue of national security."
"On Wednesday, they killed nine people nine of our brothers and sisters and there were 30 people wounded," he said, referring to this week's deadly bombing near the U.S. Embassy. "We are not going to let this stand."
Mr. Bush's visit to Peru and other Latin American nations was derided by Democrats yesterday as a craven grab for Hispanic votes in the United States.
The Democratic Party devoted its weekly radio address to ridiculing Mr. Bush's four-day trip, which concludes today in El Salvador.
"The president's trip this weekend to Latin America is part of an orchestrated strategy to curry favor with Latino voters in the United States," said Antonio Villaraigosa, speaker emeritus of the California State Assembly.
"But our community knows the difference between rhetoric and results," he added. "They know the difference between pandering and producing."
The comments were broadcast in the United States as police in Peru fired tear gas at anti-American demonstrators just hours before Mr. Bush arrived from Mexico.
"Bush, murderer, get out of Peru," the protestors shouted as they scattered amid the acrid smoke. One wore a T-shirt bearing the image of leftist revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara.
"Down with Yankee imperialism," others chanted. "We don't want to be a North American colony."
The president's visit came three days after a car bomb exploded outside the U.S. Embassy, killing nine Peruvians. Mr. Bush said he would not let "two-bit terrorists" stop him from becoming the first president to visit Lima, where the bombing was blamed on Shining Path communist guerillas.
"Peruvians have been reminded again this week of the terrible human toll of terror," Mr. Bush said. "On behalf of the people of the United States, I express our deep sympathy for the victims of the recent bombing and our deep sympathy for their loved ones."
"President Toledo and I share a common perspective on terrorism: We must stop it," he added. "Since September the 11th, Peru has taken the lead in rallying our hemisphere to take strong action against this common threat."
Most people crowding the streets of this teeming city seemed please to be hosting the American president, who brought promises of increased foreign aid. In addition to the $45 million in food assistance the American taxpayers will provide this year, Mr. Bush agreed to cancel $5.5 million in debt in exchange for Peruvian efforts to "protect biodiversity and tropical forests," the White House said.
The decision to triple anti-drug funding came after Peru saw a rise in the cultivation of plants that are used to produce cocaine and heroin. The resurgence of these drugs here coincided with an anti-drug crackdown in nearby Columbia.
In addition to pumping $75 million into drug eradication programs, Mr. Bush also brought plans for a $125 million aid package aimed at economic and social development in a nation where more than half the population lives beneath the poverty line.
Mr. Bush, who recently imposed stiff tariffs on imports of steel and lumber to the United States, yesterday extolled the virtues of free trade in South America. He promised Mr. Toledo "to renew and extend the Andean Trade Preferences Act."
"The United States House of Representatives has moved this legislation," Mr. Bush said. "It is stuck in the Senate, and I urge the Senate to act."
Later during a meeting with Mr. Toledo and leaders of Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador, one of the men used a combination of English and a Spanish to express impatience over the trade act.
"The Senate is 'manana-ing' this to death," said the leader regarding the continuous delays, according to a senior administration official who refused to reveal the speaker's name.
Mr. Bush also announced that he would send Secretary of Commerce Donald L. Evans and other officials on a trade mission to Peru and the Andean region later this year.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Toledo also reached an agreement to dispatch the Peace Corps into Peru for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Mr. Toledo, who was having breakfast with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in his palace when terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, yesterday reiterated his support for America's war against terrorism.
"This is the beginning of a new era in the relationship between Peru and the United States," he said to his American counterpart. "We both have the energy and the stubbornness, particularly with regard to the issue of terrorism and drug trafficking, because your country, just like mine, loves peace."
Mr. Bush reciprocated by praising the Peruvian president's efforts at democratic reform. Mr. Toledo, whose popularity here has fallen along with the economy, seemed to bask in the praise of the American president.
"It's an honor for me to be the first sitting president of the United States to visit Peru," said Mr. Bush, who sprinkled his remarks with snippets of Spanish. "Peru is on the path toward greater freedom and greater prosperity, and America will be the partner in this progress."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide