U.S., Peru pledge to fight terror together
BY KEVIN G. HALL AND JAMES KUHNHENN
Herald World Staff
LIMA, Peru - President Bush and President Alejandro Toledo of Peru pledged
Saturday to join together in a war
against terrorism and drug trafficking in the Andean region.
''The world has called us into action,'' Bush said. ``This is a new era.''
Unprecedented security greeted Bush on Saturday as he met with Toledo and
other Andean leaders in Peru, where
days earlier a bomb exploded across the street from the U.S. Embassy and pushed terrorism to the top of the agenda.
Bush, the first sitting U.S. president to visit Peru, brainstormed with
the leaders of Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and
Bolivia about expanding trade, coordinating anti-terrorism efforts and curbing drug flows. But the Wednesday car
bomb, which killed nine, put Peruvians and the U.S. government on edge.
Bush and Toledo noted their kinship on terrorism, with Toledo recalling
how his breakfast was shockingly disrupted
as he watched the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States unfold on television. Noting Peru's two bloody
decades of fighting domestic terrorism, he added: ``We are not only partners in conviction, but we ourselves
have experienced it.''
No one has claimed responsibility for Wednesday's bombing, though it is
widely believed to be the work of Peru's
Maoist Shining Path guerrilla movement.
The two presidents, dressed nearly identically in gray suits and powder
blue ties, reacted warmly to each other.
Toledo observed that while he and Bush are the same age -- 55 -- Bush seems younger. Bush quipped, in a
mixture of Spanish and English: ''We may be the same age, but he has black hair,'' referring to his own ''pelo
gris,'' gray hair.
Toledo called Bush ''mi amigo,'' and Bush said he was ''impressed'' and ''inspired'' by Toledo's leadership.
With sharpshooters perched on rooftops and heavily armed soldiers and police
lining every corner, terrorism
couldn't help but dominate a joint news conference. But anti-drug efforts were not far behind.
Bush offered condolences over the attack and announced $195 million in
assistance for Peru this year, a threefold
increase; $75 million of it would go toward counternarcotics and security.
He also stressed that curtailing drug trafficking requires cutting back
production, but also reducing demand in the
''We've got to do a better job at home of convincing Americans to stop
using drugs,'' he said. ``That will, in turn,
help the region.''
Toledo, skirting a question about his specific commitments to coca eradication,
said both countries had a
responsibility to counter narcotics.
''We have a long path ahead of us, and we have to walk it together,'' Toledo said.
There were high hopes in the region that Bush would arrive with a major
trade deal, and would announce the
renewal of a joint anti-narcotics aerial surveillance program suspended last year. But he had little to offer beyond
a promise to keep working on those issues.
Bush and Toledo made a pitch on behalf of trade as an antidote to poverty.
Bush called on the U.S. Senate to pass
an expanded renewal of an Andean Trade Preferences Act, which expired in December. The law gives Bolivia,
Colombia, Ecuador and Peru duty-free access to U.S. markets for a range of products.
The aerial surveillance program, jointly operated with the United States
in Peru and Colombia, was shut down in
April when the Peruvian air force shot down an aircraft carrying U.S. missionaries, killing a woman and her infant
daughter. A CIA-piloted plane patrolling over northern Peru mistakenly targeted the plane as a drug flight.
Although the Bush administration has completed a review of the program
and has repeatedly indicated it intended
to reactivate the flights, it has not yet done so.
Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, the world's leading growers of coca, also want
Bush to open U.S. markets to their
farm products to provide alternative crops to coca growers.
PEACE CORPS RETURN
Among the panoply of other bilateral initiatives that Bush touted Saturday
was the reestablishment of the Peace
Corps in Peru -- 27 years after its presence was ended by an anti-U.S. regime. The first of the Peace Corps
volunteers are expected back in August.
Bush also said the U.S. Aid for International Development will work to
create centers to improve teacher training
in Peru and Colombia. Also, the president said he has directed the Commerce Department to start ''E-Business''
fellowships for Peruvians.
Shortly before Bush's arrival, a few dozen leftist protesters, some waving
red flags with the image of Marxist
revolutionary Che Guevara, tried to rally in front of the Palace of Justice, not far from where Bush was to meet
Police fired tear gas and swarmed the protesters, making several arrests.
Herald wire services contributed to this report.