Two Latin American presidents promised yesterday to continue their wars on drugs and seek U.S. support for their struggles against poverty and for economic stability, the Miami Herald reports. But former Salvadoran President Francisco Flores warned that Latin Americans frustrated with low salaries, high crime, and low prices for their agricultural exports may be swinging away from their hard-won democracies. A conference in Florida also heard from Presidents Alvaro Uribe of Colombia and Carlos Mesa of Bolivia. “We must continue our struggle until we have not a single coca plant,” Uribe said. “Violence has eliminated the opportunities of the country to have greater fiscal revenues so they can have investments. That is why we have to eliminate terrorism.” Mesa added: “We are struggling against drug trafficking.”
Uribe said his government last year eradicated nearly 150,000 acres of coca and hopes to eradicate another 150,000 acres this year. He added, “we still have a long way to go,” especially in tamping down the guerrillas and paramilitaries. “This is a country that had been kidnapped collectively,” he said, referring both to kidnappings, often carried out by guerrillas for ransom that finance their war, and the overall sense of powerlessness felt by many Colombians. Uribe is pushing the U.S. to eliminate tariffs on some Colombian agricultural products in order to bolster alternatives to coca farming.