News Release

Peru Plane Downing: Broader Issues

A front-page article in today’s Washington Post reports that the CIA was late in warning the Peruvian military not to fire on the civilian airplane carrying missionaries. The following analysts are available for interviews on broader U.S. policy questions:

CECILIA ZARATE-LAUN
Co-founder and director of the Colombia Support Network, Zarate-Laun said today: “The downing of the airplane in Peru makes more public the level of U.S. military presence in the Amazon area, which is rich in natural resources. The U.S. government is selling its ‘war on drugs’ to the American people as its solution to voracious drug consumption. But when we look carefully at what is happening on the supply side of the issue, more and more doubts come to our minds when we see how the war is implemented in Colombia. The U.S. is focusing Plan Colombia on the south of the country, where the guerillas are strong, while ignoring the ‘paramilitaries’ in the north, even though they are responsible for much more of the drug trafficking. Once the paramilitaries enter a town, they kill the community leaders so that democracy does not flourish. Three out of every five unionists killed around the world today are Colombian. Plan Colombia is more a war against the guerrillas to ensure that U.S. corporate interests will dominate Colombia, which is key strategically, than a war against drugs. It is costing $1.36 billion, 80 percent of which is military. It goes to the Colombian military, to the police and for fumigation of the rainforest. Very little of Plan Colombia goes to addressing the real problems; the peasants plant coca because they are desperate and, given their circumstances, few other crops are profitable.”

LARRY BIRNS
Director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Birns said today: “One speculates how Bush nominees Otto Reich (as assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs) and Roger Noriega (as ambassador to the Organization of American States) would have responded to the downing of the U.S. missionary aircraft in Peru. Their past record far from guarantees that they would have been forthcoming with a constructive and proportionate response to this tragedy…. Many believe that Reich only narrowly missed the prospect of doing hard jail time for illegal behavior during the Iran-Contra conspiracy, while Noriega’s story represents a triumph of sycophancy and mediocrity over merit. Although Secretary of State Colin Powell is well aware that the Reich and Noriega nominations each could be a can of worms waiting to embarrass him, their names will be sent to the Hill due to Sen. Jesse Helms’ clout, and in the case of Reich, due to the personal backing of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the pressure on the governor — which he passed onto his brother — being applied by one of the more hard-line Miami leaders, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL)…”
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ETHAN NADELMANN
Nadelmann is executive director of The Lindesmith Center — Drug Policy Foundation and author of Cops Across Borders: The Internationalization of U.S. Criminal Law Enforcement.
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167