THE Peru-United States bilateral agreement on drugs, seemingly ready to be signed a month ago, seems certain to be delayed. An open letter to Peru's Congress signed by 24 leading Peruvian development and nongovernment organizations calls for rejection of the agreement and a national debate about its terms.
The letter was the outcome of heated debate at a recent anti-drug conference organized by the Andean Commission of Jurists, a human rights organization.
Legislators from neighboring Bolivia and Colombia as well as Peruvian coca growers attending the meeting condemned what they see as growing militarization and US involvement in the Andean anti-narcotics war.
The purpose of the conference was to evaluate progress achieved since the four-nation Cartagena drug summit of February 1990.
The US-Peruvian agreement, so far available in draft form only, which coincides with the Cartagena accord, accepts co-responsibility for the drug problem. It calls for a ``joint venture'' against drug-trafficking.
According to its text, the US consumes 80 percent of the world's coca derivatives, while Peru produces 60 percent of the world's coca leaf, the raw material for cocaine.
But it is easier, argues the agreement, to combat drugs on Peruvian territory where only an estimated $708 million of all drug money remains, than in the US where importers, distributors, and pushers earn about $79 billion each year from sales of cocaine alone.
Peruvian coca is produced by between 100,000 and 200,000 small growers. The ``Fujimori Doctrine'' announced unilaterally last October and enshrined in the bilateral agreement, is to persuade these illegal growers to commit themselves to crop substitution in return for legality, land titles, and access to credit and the other advantages of a free market.
There are growing indications, however, that the political cost of the agreement may outweigh President Bush's financial carrot - $39.9 million in direct aid to Peru's drug police and military, plus another $87.7 million in ``drug-related economic aid.''