Peru takes step toward reducing drug flow to US

Peru is moving to stem the flow of drugs to the United States via Colombian refineries and Mexican middlemen as pressure mounts from Washington for a continent-wide crackdown. US pressure comes partly in a threat to cut economic aid unless governments fight drugs.

Peru's drug dealers, who supply half the world's cocaine raw material, took a beating recently when President Alan Garc'ia P'erez ordered raids that closed down South America's biggest cocaine laboratory. Mr. Garc'ia also fired a string of allegedly corrupt judges and police generals.

But US lawmakers say Latin America is not even scratching the surface of the narcotics problem. In its depressed economies, cocaine and marijuana have become important cash crops.

``The situation is out of control,'' said Charles Rangel (D) of New York, chairman of the House Narcotics Abuse and Control Committee, after a fact-finding tour of Latin America in August. He said a greater resolve was noted among governments now but that one president visited during the trip said he had hesitated to use his nation's Army in the drug fight because he feared that its officers would become as corrupt as the police.

In Lima, committee members warned that Peru could lose half the $130 million earmarked in US aid for 1986 unless Garc'ia convinces Washington that he will take sustained action against coca exports, a $500-million-a-year industry.

Rep. Rangel's committee has recommended that the US spend $32 million in 1986 for Latin American drug-control programs, up 9 percent from 1985 and the largest US funding for any region. In order for the campaign to work, governments must develop crop-substitution plans to feed the peasants now making a living as growers of coca and marijuana, US officials say.

Latin America supplies 98 percent of the cocaine and 70 percent of the marijuana used in the US.

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