Wed, Apr 04, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Peruvian president orders bombing of narcotics factories

AFP , LIMA

Peruvian President Alan Garcia on Monday ordered warplanes to bomb and strafe drug manufacturing plants and clandestine airstrips in the Amazon jungle.

"We must do away with the last [cocaine] processing, the last clandestine airport," Garcia ordered Interior Minister Luis Alva Castro. "Use the A-37 airplanes -- bomb, machine-gun these airports and processing plants."

The A-37 is a small, agile US-made warplane ideal for use in Peru's steep valleys.

He warned that if Peru does not "kill the drug trafficking danger now," it could face "an insurgency like the one of a brother country."

Garcia alluded to Colombia, whose government battles leftist rebels funded by illicit drugs.

Garcia also wants to avoid a repeat of his 1985 to 1990 presidency, when he was soundly criticized for not attacking drugs and leftist rebels.

He ordered the crackdown after announcing on Sunday that a two-week suspension of coca eradication had ended and that the government would return to destroying the coca bushes, from which cocaine is extracted in the clandestine laboratories.

"We must choke cocaine production," he said, adding it was the best way to make coca-leaf farmers plant alternative crops such as coffee and cocoa. "You make less money, but you live legally."

A general strike among farmers in the Tocache region led to an agreement with Agriculture Minister Juan Jose Salazar to suspend the eradication.

Garcia's decision to renew attacks on the drug producers drew fire even from fellow Aprista lawmakers, who said publicly that Garcia was acting tough prior to a visit to US President George W. Bush in Washington on April 23.

Nelson Palomino, leader of the coca growers, told national news radio network RPP that he had demanded a dialogue before renewed eradication and rejected "the imposition of the US policy of eradicating crops and violating individual rights."

The US prescription for the coca-producing countries of Bolivia, Colombia and Peru is the eradication of the coca plants.

Sale and use of coca leaf is legal in those countries, where indigenous peoples have chewed the leaf with no ill effect for thousands of years. Industrialized nations created refined cocaine.

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