Union Tribune

March 24, 2002

Bush pledges help to Peru in fighting terrorism, drugs


LIMA, Peru – President Bush and Peruvian President Alejandro
Toledo agreed yesterday to join hands in a struggle against
terrorism and drug trafficking in the wake of a deadly car
bombing that underscored the political instability of the Andean

In a news conference after private talks between the leaders,
Bush offered to help Peru repel a growing threat from a
Colombian-based, left-wing rebel group, the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish acronym of

"We discussed the neighborhood at length today," Bush said.
"(Toledo) is moving troops and making decisions to prevent
terrorists from coming into the country from Colombia, and we
will help him in this effort."

Toledo said no evidence exists that FARC is operating on
Peruvian soil, but his government is taking precautions and he
welcomed Bush's pledge to help.

"We are going to work together on this," Bush said. No details
were offered on what the assistance would be.

Later, Bush met with Toledo and leaders from three neighboring
Andean nations – Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia – that have
formed a bloc in the battle against drug trafficking.

The United States will give the governments $782 million this
year under the Andean Regional Initiative, a program designed
to stamp out the production of cocaine and spur economic
development, the White House said.

The Andean nations also are pressing for renewal of a trade deal
with the United States. Bush strongly supports the measure, the
Andean Trade Preferences Act, as a way of providing economic
alternatives to illicit drug production.

Bush and Toledo made clear their determination to link the fight
against regional terrorism to the battle against drugs, with
Toledo suggesting that the fatal car bombing illustrated the
urgency of tackling both problems head-on.

"In the war against drug trafficking and terrorism, we are
partners," Toledo said. "We ourselves have experienced it. . . .
Drug trafficking, in partnership with terrorism, is an issue of
national security. On Wednesday they killed nine people."

Bush arrived to a city badly shaken by the blast that occurred
150 feet from the walls of the U.S. Embassy.

Before Air Force One touched down, riot police fired tear gas to
disperse dozens of anti-American demonstrators who had
gathered near the Palace of Justice in the central downtown

The Peruvian government deployed 7,000 police officers to
guard main avenues and banned flights over Lima during Bush's

No one has claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attack, but
authorities suspect the Shining Path, a Maoist insurgency
organization that spawned deadly violence during the 1990s
before being crippled by the Peruvian police and military.

The Andean Regional Initiative will provide $119 million to Peru
for economic development and $75 million for law
enforcement, drug interdiction and coca plant eradication.

Bush told reporters that no decision has been reached about
whether to resume drug surveillance flights suspended after a
Peruvian military jet on an anti-drug mission shot down a plane
April 21 that it thought was a drug courier but was actually
carrying American missionaries. A woman and her daughter

Meanwhile, the two governments have agreed to renew the
Peace Corps program in Peru after a 27-year hiatus. Toledo, who
won a scholarship to study in the United States with the help of
Peace Corps volunteers, asked Bush to restart the program.

At the news conference, Toledo also recalled having breakfast
with Secretary of State Colin Powell in Lima when they learned of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The four Andean presidents used their hour-long session to
encourage Bush in his efforts to get Congress to renew the
Andean trade pact, which was passed 11 years ago to help their
economies break free of cocaine production by exempting a
number of their products from U.S. tariffs.

The House has voted to renew the pact but the Senate hasn't, in part because U.S. textile interests oppose a provision easing
imports of Andean apparel.

During the meeting, one president complained that the Senate is "mañana-ing the measure to death." Sean McCormick, a White
House spokesman, said the speaker was not Bush.

The trade measure and the Andean regional program are
designed to combat Colombia's drug traffickers, who have
continued to flourish despite an effort started against them two
years ago. Known as Plan Colombia, it was launched as an
eradication effort at a cost of about $1.3 billion. Figures from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy show that coca production in Colombia rose by almost 25 percent between August 2000, when the initiative went into effect, and December 2001.

Although the legislation creating the plan limited U.S. military
aid to counternarcotics efforts, the Bush administration and
Congress are considering loosening those constraints to help
Colombian authorities battle the FARC.

The Colombian government of Andres Pastrana also faces
violent threats from another leftist group, the National
Liberation Army, and a right-wing paramilitary group, the
United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia. Links between these
groups and the drug cartels are murky.