Economic Aid Key to Drug War Victory, Candidate Says : Peru: Presidential front-runner Fujimori opposes U.S. enforcement assistance alone. Repression is not effective, he maintains.
Alberto Fujimori, the unexpected front-runner for the Peruvian presidency, says he opposes greater U.S. military and police aid to fight cocaine trafficking unless it is accompanied by a vast program of economic development.
Fujimori, the son of Japanese immigrants, said in an interview Wednesday night that the past emphasis on police action against cocaine has shown that “repression has no effectiveness. Just look at the results over the last 10 years.”
The 51-year-old agronomist also said that a U.S. offer to provide $36 million in training and equipment for the Peruvian military to fight Maoist guerrillas who defend the traffickers would be equally pointless on its own.
“I maintain that all these actions are ineffective,” he said. “There really must be measures that provide more effective (economic) support.”
He said, however, that he would accept the military and police aid if it were combined with far-reaching development funds that would allow Peru’s peasants to switch from coca crops to legal harvests.
Relaxed and confident, Fujimori spoke in an interview at the end of a five-day campaign tour through the slums of Lima. They were a major source of support in his stunning second-place showing in the first-round presidential ballot April 8.
Unknown to most Peruvians just a month before that vote, the centrist Fujimori swept past traditional candidates in the final days to finish just four points behind novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, the free-market advocate who was widely expected to run far ahead of the pack. The close result forced a runoff election, which is to be held either June 3 or June 10.
Even without announcing his own plans for a government program, Fujimori now leads Vargas Llosa in all opinion polls, with the most respected polling firm, Apoyo, giving him a 44% to 36% edge this week--down from 12 points two weeks earlier.
Peru’s Upper Huallaga Valley is the world’s largest coca-growing region, and despite joint U.S-Peruvian efforts, the coca acreage has grown steadily to about 500,000 acres, according to Peruvian police. The fanatical Maoist guerrilla movement, Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), has built ties to the drug traffickers and peasant coca growers in the valley, making security perilous and impeding interdiction programs.
Sendero guerrillas attacked the main police anti-drug base in the valley at Santa Lucia last month, and some of the 20 or so U.S. personnel normally stationed there joined Peruvian police in the 85-minute gun battle.
Fujimori said the coca growers will not give up their lucrative crop unless they are provided with the infrastructure and markets for legal crops.
“If we abandon the growers, they are going to keep producing more coca,” he said. “These people cannot get their products to market. What they need is roads and transport that will permit agriculture to be profitable. . . . You have to proceed respecting the laws of economics. If there are roads and a railway, then the legal crops are going to be as profitable as the coca.”
The United States is providing about $3 million in economic aid in its anti-drug program for Peru this fiscal year. Next year, the amount is scheduled to rise to $63.1 million, although U.S. officials say that virtually none of the money is to be spent in the Upper Huallaga because of the security threat there to any aid project.
Fujimori said that even the $63 million in assistance is “a very great disproportion . . . considering the $120 billion that is spent (annually) in the U.S. to buy cocaine. That amount of aid is completely insufficient. We are not going to obtain any results; it is a palliative.”
Asked whether the police action against drug-trafficking should be halted altogether in favor of economic aid, Fujimori replied: “If the resources are scarce, I would direct more funds to development rather than to repression.”
He applied the same logic to the U.S. plan to spend $36 million to outfit and train Peruvian soldiers to help them combat Sendero Luminoso in the valley and thus improve security.
“While there is misery, Sendero is going to continue advancing,” he said. “It is necessary to recognize the profound cause of each one of these problems.”
Fujimori, who has yet to announce a specific government program, said the sudden gains by his newly formed party, Cambio 90 (Change 90), was a manifestation of popular rebellion against both poverty and Sendero.