Press Availability with Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo
March 23, 2002
6:00 P.M. EST
PRESIDENT TOLEDO: This is an historic visit made by a friend representing a
country with which we have had an historical relationship. It is not merely
a diplomatic visit, it is an official working visit and we have touched on substantive
issues, which range from the open struggle against poverty, a war without quarter
against terrorism and drug trafficking. I repeat, a war with no ambiguities
whatsoever, against terrorism and drug trafficking.
We've touched on issues of trade, education, even the Peace Corps. But, my friend,
George Bush, this Peru is a country that welcomes you with open arms. We are
renewing our friendship and this is the beginning of a new era in the relationship
between Peru and the United States. And I'm extremely happy that the two of
us are able to begin this relationship.
I know you seem younger than I am, but we are both 55 years old. And we have
a long way ahead of us to work together. I know that we both have the energy
and the stubbornness, particularly with regard to the issue of terrorism and
drug trafficking, because your country, just like mine, loves peace. It appreciates
life. And we are united on this. And as of today, we have a strategic alliance
of hope for the future.
My friend, welcome to my country.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Gracias, Senor Presidente. It is an honor for me to be the first
sitting President of the United States to visit Peru. I want to thank you for
the invitation. It's a greater honor for Laura and me to come here as guests
of a leader who symbolizes Peru's revitalization.
President Toledo and I have now met three times. At each meeting I've been impressed
by his commitment to democracy and his determination to improve the lives of
the people of Peru. Peru is on the path toward greater freedom and greater prosperity,
and America will be the partner in this progress, Mr. President.
Earlier today, our two governments signed an agreement that will reintroduce
the Peace Corps to Peru, after an absence of nearly 30 years. The first volunteers
will arrive in August, a symbol of the stronger ties between our people and
the stronger relationship between our nations.
This relationship is based on common values and common interests. Our nations
understand that political and economic progress depends on security -- and that
security is impossible in a world with terrorists. Peruvians have been reminded
again this week of the terrible human toll of terror. On behalf of the people
of the United States, I express our deep sympathy for the victims of the recent
bombing and our deep sympathy for their loved ones.
President Toledo and I share a common perspective on terrorism: We must stop
it. Since September the 11th, Peru has taken the lead in rallying our hemisphere
to take strong action against this common threat. And I want to thank the President
for his leadership and his strong support.
Our nations understand that freedom is only as strong as the institutions protecting
it. The United States is actively supporting the President's efforts to strengthen
Peru's democratic foundations. And we will continue to support the work of Peru's
Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is helping correct the abuses of
the past and set the course for a better future.
President Toledo and I both understand the importance of providing economic
opportunity to all our citizens as a hopeful alternative to the drug trade.
We discussed ways to make the assistance that the United States provides under
the Andean Regional Initiative more effective. And I emphasized to the President
my commitment to renew and extend the Andean Trade Preferences Act. The United
States House of Representatives has moved this legislation. It is stuck in the
Senate, and I urge the Senate to act.
President Toledo and I have agreed to renew discussions on a bilateral investment
treaty, and to complete a debt-for-nature agreement, to help Peru reduce debt
payments while it protects its biodiversity.
I also informed the President that Secretary of Commerce Don Evans will lead
a trade mission to Peru and the Andean region later this year. By building these
ties of commerce, both our nations create more jobs, more investment, and more
benefits for workers and consumers.
President Toledo and I believe that education is the key to participation in
the global economy. The President's own path in life is a lesson in how education
opens up doors to opportunity. He is passionate on the subject. I love his passion,
and I appreciate his commitment.
And I'm pleased to announce that our country will help establish an Andean Center
of Excellence for Teacher Training, with a base here in Peru. The center will
support President Toledo's goal of quality schools with quality teachers, that
give more Peruvians the literacy and learning they need to succeed.
I've also directed the U.S. Commerce Department, and the U.S. Trade and Development
Agency, to establish an Andean e-business fellowship program, to give more high-tech
professionals from this region the chance to learn more about information technology.
President Toledo and I have a strong relationship. I'm inspired by his life,
I'm inspired by his story, I'm inspired by his leadership. I'm impressed by
Peru's progress and I'm very confident of Peru's future.
Thank you, sir. (Applause.)
QUESTION: Mr. President --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Which one? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You, sir. Given increasing evidence that the FARC is now operating in Peru,
will you be willing to provide President Toledo extra assistance in fighting
the war against terrorism here, should he ask for it? And are you concerned
that what was once a regional problem in Colombia or something restricted to
Colombia is now spreading across Colombia's border and threatening its neighbors?
PRESIDENT BUSH: We discussed the neighborhood at length today. President Toledo
told me that he is -- now that he's done a very good job, or the country's done
a good job, of making sure that relations with neighbors, north and south, are
peaceful, that he is moving troops and making decisions to prevent terrorists
from coming into his country from Colombia. And we will help him in this effort.
That's part of the reason why I'm here -- is to support our mutual desire to
fight terror and to help this good democracy thrive.
Later on today we'll be talking with Presidents from -- and one Vice President,
from the Andean nations. And we'll be discussing our common desire to prevent
terrorist groups like the FARC from holding people and nations hostage. And
I'm absolutely convinced, having talked to the President three times, that he
will do everything in his power to rout out terror, not let it take hold, and
preserve the institutions that make Peru a beacon for democracy.
QUESTION: -- (inaudible.)
PRESIDENT TOLEDO: No, the evidence that we have is -- I repeat, the evidence
that we have indicates that there is no transfer of the FARC into Peru. However,
we are adopting every measure possible. The Minister of Defense was at the border
very recently. We took our bases that were along the border with Ecuador --
where, after signing the peace agreement, there is no need for their presence
-- we removed them as a precautionary measure over to the border with Colombia.
As President Bush just indicated, this is a joint task. What happens to Colombia
affects us, and vice versa. But here, too, we're partners. And I think that
the issues that have to do with the Andean community are issues on which President
Bush is extremely interested and I'm sure that we will be working together on
these. We are going to work together on this; I'm sure of that.
QUESTION: President Bush, you granted an audience recently to my daily, El Comercio,
at the White House, and you said in that interview that Peru, for the United
States, is not only a friend, but an ally. I'd like to ask you, beyond trade
preferences and the commitment to struggle against drug trafficking, what will
be the major elements in your administration that would highlight this different
relationship you want to have with Peru? For example, would you open up an antechamber,
so to speak, for Peru to come into a free trade agreement negotiation with the
And let me ask President Toledo, with regard to the issue of shared responsibility
in the fight against drug trafficking, would you take on the commitment before
President Bush to establish a control office that would monitor whatever the
United States does not comply with?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I listed quite a few things in my opening remarks about our
relationship. I believe strongly that if we promote trade, and when we promote
trade, it will help workers on both sides of this issue -- it will help Peruvian
workers, help U.S. workers.
The Andean Trade Preference Act is a cornerstone of good policy, as far as I'm
concerned, and it's a cornerstone of good relations. We talked about a treaty
on investment; that could be the beginning of a trade treaty. The President
brought it up. He asked whether or not we would consider it. I said we'll take
it back and discuss the issue when I get back to Washington, D.C.
There's nothing more important than fostering good economic relations. I mean,
the best way for people to get lifted out of poverty is a job. And the best
way to encourage jobs is through trade.
I mean, what we're beginning to realize in the world is development aid is important,
but development aid pales in comparison to the amount of capital that's generated
through trade in the marketplace, in the private sector. And countries that
open markets and countries that trade freely are countries where the people
are more likely to be able to succeed. And I would not discount the importance
of our relationship when it comes to fighting terror.
The world has called us to action. This is a new era. We're fighting a new kind
of war. And we're strong allies in that war. And when we win, our peoples will
be better off. You can't alleviate poverty if there's terror in your neighborhood.
It's impossible to achieve what we want if terrorists run free.
And so I think one of the best things we can do to lay the foundation for a
better tomorrow is to be tough and firm and not yield to threat. And that's
exactly the way the President feels, and I can assure you that's the way I feel.
PRESIDENT TOLEDO: I think that in the war against drug trafficking and terrorism,
we are partners, not simply through conviction, my good friend, but because
we, ourselves, have experienced it. We have experienced the effects of terrorism
here for 20 years. The United States, on September 11th. And I have here my
friend, Colin Powell, with whom we have a very solid human relationship because,
in this very palace, we were witnesses to the news of September 11th, while
we were having breakfast.
On this issue we are partners. I am stubborn. I am stubborn and I believe it
is not incompatible to respect the law and to be strong-handed with regard to
the issue of terrorism and drug trafficking.
I do know there's been a decision from the U.S. government to increase support
for the struggle against drug trafficking, and I appreciate that enormously.
We still have a long road ahead to walk together in this struggle, but we will
And, Mr. Journalist, I want to underscore something that was referred to by
President Bush. Trade preferences is an issue on which President Bush has demonstrated
-- and I am a witness -- his will for congressional approval in the United States.
The separation of powers makes it impossible for Presidents to control congresses
-- just like I don't control mine. But that's the way democracy works.
Nonetheless, we have gone beyond Andean Trade Preferences. I have asked of President
Bush that he consider an initiative for trade, for bilateral trade and investment
within the framework of the Andean community. And we are going to be talking
to our colleagues in just a few minutes.
I think it's important because trade is a synonym for work. And work is a way
to deal with poverty. Through work, education and health, we can eradicate poverty.
We are partners on the issue of trade, on the issue of drug trafficking and
terrorism, in the defense of democracy and of human rights, my friend -- human
QUESTION: Mr. President, the Peruvians have expressed an urgent desire for the resumption
of U.S. drug interdiction flights in Peruvian airspace. You told us yesterday
in Monterrey that the issue was under rigorous review. My question to you, sir,
is it your ultimate goal to see a resumption of those flights? And what preconditions
would you put on those flights before authorizing resumption?
And for President Toledo, if I could, sir, if you are to expect a maximum effort
at a partnership with the United States to eradicate drug trafficking, why won't
you make the same commitment to coca eradication as your neighbors, Bolivia,
have? You've talked a lot about the problem being drug trafficking, but you
have not made the same commitment on coca production, sir.
PRESIDENT BUSH: John, we are reviewing all avenues toward an effective policy
of interdiction. As you know, we had a terrible situation where a young mom
and her daughter lost their life; that caused us to step back to take a look
at our policy at home, and then to work with the Peruvian government to figure
out how best to be effective at interdicting drugs.
And so the discussions are ongoing. And we want to make sure that when we work
with countries like Peru, that we achieve the common objective, which is to
make it hard for those narco-traffickers to move through their airspace, across
their land, or in oceans.
I want to say something about -- there's a lot of talk about interdiction, and
there should be. And there's a lot of talk about battling the narco-traffickers
here in the Andean area, and we will. But our country has an obligation, as
well, not only to provide support and help. The President mentioned that we
have expanded the direct aid to Peru on this issue, which we have. We've tripled
it, up to about $200 million -- about $195 million, I think it is. But the best
thing that America needs to do is reduce demand for drugs. We've got to do a
better job of convincing our own country to quit using them. As demand for drugs
goes down, it will take the pressure off of our friends in Peru.
So we've got a double obligation, it seems like to me -- on the one hand, to
provide help and aid that's effective and will work. And that's exactly what
we spent a long time talking about, in all three of our meetings. But I want
to remind our Peruvian friends that we've got to do a better job at home of
convincing Americans to stop using drugs. And part of our drug initiative will
be to focus on the demand side. Less demand for drugs will mean that the supply
for drugs will be less urgent. And that will in turn help the region.
PRESIDENT TOLEDO: Look, my friend, let me deal with your question head on. In
1990, the number of hectares with coca cultivation was approximately 140,000
total. Today, we are down to 34,000 hectares where we have coca cultivation.
Enormous progress has been made.
I know it's not enough. We have a long path ahead of us yet. And we have to
do this together. I know that the drug traffickers have become more sophisticated
over time -- they have more high-tech capabilities. And now we, too, have to
push forward in that direction.
I want to be very open, and I apologize to my friend, President Bush, now. We
are not fighting against drug trafficking in order to satisfy the United States
or Europe. Drug trafficking, in partnership with terrorism, is an issue of national
security. It's an issue of national security. On Wednesday, they killed nine
people -- nine of our brothers and sisters -- and there are 30 people wounded.
I have publicly stated -- and I want to repeat this -- we are not going to let
So let me respond to you. We have met a substantial reduction. We still have
34,000 hectares to go. But we are going to do this together.
Final point. I think President Bush is extremely sincere -- he's extremely sincere
and honest when he recognizes that as long as there is a demand out there, there
will be a supply. As long as there are consumers, there will be producers. And
so, together, we need to work on reducing the number of consumers, cure them
better, make them better. And we need to reduce the amount of hectares under
And, footnote here, it's also true that the statistics indicate that although
levels are still low, there is an increase in the consumption of cocaine among
youth in Peru. And that is also part of our concern with regard to national
QUESTION: President Bush, you are in a region now that's been devastated by terrorism
and subversion and drug trafficking for over three decades. You're offering
us the Peace Corps. I would ask you if you're willing, as President of the most
powerful nation on Earth, to lead a Marshall Plan for South America?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I appreciate that. I think I said more than just the Peace Corps,
if I'm not mistaken, in my opening comments. Obviously, our nation is committed
to this part of the world. I've come to Peru as the first sitting President
to express our solidarity with Peru and the people, as well as express my appreciation
for a reformer who got elected who's willing to defend the institutions that
make democracy go.
I'll repeat if you'd like me to, go through the litany of things I just said
-- the Andean Trade Preference Act, the bilateral action on investment, money
for education, money to fight drugs. We've tripled the amount of money -- I
believe it's from $50 million up to $195 million available. And so I think our
commitment is -- I think our commitment speaks for itself. And I appreciate
so very much the chance to come and explain it to the Peruvian people that ours
is more than just words -- ours is deeds and action.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, President Bush. Buenos tardes, Senor Presidente. President
Bush, many lawmakers in Congress are growing increasingly concerned about your
policy in the Middle East, wondering if the very talk of potential high-level
negotiations involving Vice President Cheney, specifically, with the Palestinian
leader, Yasser Arafat, might not, in fact, send a signal that terrorism against
Israeli civilians can achieve some limited political aims. I'd to ask you, sir,
why you're contemplating that, and why those who wonder if that is not the case
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, first of all, I think there's been no question that the
United States has stood strong with Israel. And we've made it very clear to
Mr. Arafat that he is not -- he's not doing all he can do to fight off terror.
I can't be any more clear than that. Vice President Cheney said, depending upon
on the Zinni mission and General Zinni's recommendation, he might go back, if
and when Arafat performs.
Surely those in the Congress you talk about appreciate the fact that the administration
is engaged, and sent General Zinni into the region. We laid out the Tenet plan,
which is the way to bring some security to the region -- which would then lead
to the Mitchell plan. And we're doing everything in our power to get the parties
into Tenet. And we'll continue working hard to get them to Tenet.
QUESTION: Even if the violence continues --
PRESIDENT BUSH: If and when -- if and when Mr. Arafat -- if and when --
QUESTION: -- (inaudible) --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Excuse me. If and when Chairman Arafat performs. That's what
we have said. General Zinni went to the Middle East; he's leading discussions.
But people shouldn't mistake our desire to get into Tenet as anything more than
a desire to get to peace. And we'll continue working to do so.
And Prime Minister Sharon knows where the United States stands. We're strong
allies with Israel. We have been ever since I've been the President, and we'll
continue to be strong allies with Israel.
QUESTION: Good afternoon to both Presidents. President Bush, just a few days ago I was
able to ask you in Washington about leadership in the fight against poverty.
And on this, aside from the issue of being 55 and the fact that you're wearing
the same color ties, you are in agreement with President Alejandro Toledo, who
also insists on fighting against poverty. But the fight against poverty presupposes
-- and this has been stated by Dr. Toledo -- thinking of reducing arms in Latin
America, because for every tank or F-16, we could buy a lot more schools. Mr.
President, I'd like to know your views on this, and the views of President Toledo
with regard to this issue. The possibility of arms control in the South American
part of the hemisphere. And the same question for President Toledo.
PRESIDENT BUSH: We may be the same age, but el tiene pelo negro. (Laughter.)
Yo tengo pelo gris. (Laughter.)
I appreciate President Toledo's work to have a security arrangement in place
in the neighborhood amongst the countries bordering Peru that will then allow
him to reinvest in education. We talked about that. And I think that is a strong
commitment and a wise commitment.
As far as my country's commitment goes, I gave a speech in Monterrey, Mexico,
two days ago where I committed our country to a 50-percent increase in development
aid. But I said it's time for the world to stop looking at inputs and to focus
on outputs, and that the United States, developed nations, must do more financially.
And we're leading the way.
But we expect other nations to develop the habits that will lead to a better
opportunity for their people: rule of law, a focus on education, and good health
care. President Toledo understands that, he's been a leader in that effort.
And I think what I said in Monterrey was very important, that unless we all
focus on how programs benefit people directly, not matter what the efforts or
strategy is, it's likely to lead to failure. But programs and policies that
understand the worth of each human being, that each individual matters, are
those programs which will be successful. And so our country will try to foster
that. And this President has made that commitment, for which I am grateful.
PRESIDENT TOLEDO: Aside from the fact that President Bush has very good taste
with regard to color in ties -- (laughter) -- he's also taller than I am. (Laughter.)
On this issue, Raul, of military expenditure, we discussed it with him. And
here I want to strike a difference between military expenses for armed conflicts
between countries, and military expenditures for defense against terrorism and
drug trafficking, because these are two separate issues.
I think that there is a major challenge in the world in order to survive in
this globalized and savagely competitive world we live in. We need to invest
more in the minds of our people. Basically, what this means is investing more
in nutrition, health, education, and justice for the poor.
We won't be able to deal with the challenges of this globalized world unless
we invest in the knowledge of our societies. The question immediately arises,
and obviously so, in an economy that is growing that is overcoming recession,
where you get the money to invest in nutrition, health and education? Well,
we've made an appeal to countries at the bilateral level. And there the United
States has played a very generous role at the donors table in Madrid. And I
want to publicly express my appreciation, Mr. President.
There has been debt conversion, external bilateral debt swap, for social investment.
And there we have been able to get a commitment of about $1 billion. This is
one way to establish a financial space to invest in health, nutrition and education.
The other thing is that I believe it makes no sense in this world that as long
as we have a country with 54 percent of Peruvians who live below the poverty
line, or 16 percent who live below the dire poverty line -- when I was born,
the very first minute of my life when I opened my eyes, I saw the face of dire
poverty. I know what this means. That's why I am convinced that we can make
an effort to reduce military spending, to reorient those resources towards investment
and justice and education and health. Because the defense of a country no longer
depends on how many tanks, or ships, or aircraft we have. It's all about how
strong our economy is, how educated our people are.
And please excuse me for being so passionate on this subject, but there is absolutely
no doubt on this. And the empirical evidence is very harsh with regard to the
return on investment on education and health and nutrition for our people.
And here, once again, we have another point of coincidence that leads us down
the same path together. I conveyed something that's very close to my heart with
regard to the Huascaran education program, and I asked our friend to support
us on this. And I will be going to New York, and I'm going to talk to Mr. Bill
Gates, to try to promote the Huascaran project even more. But if we reduce military
spending, we're going to have some financial leeway to reorient this money towards
the poor, who want to overcome poverty -- who want freedom. And we'll be able
to deal with the challenges of the future even better.