The Washington Times
March 24, 2002

Bush triples aid pledge to Peru

                      By Bill Sammon
                      THE WASHINGTON TIMES

                           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."