#207 Drug Warriors Shoot Before Asking Questions In Peru

Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2001
Subject: #207 Drug Warriors Shoot Before Asking Questions In Peru

Drug Warriors Shoot Before Asking Questions In Peru


DrugSense FOCUS Alert #207 Wed. April 25,2001

A seven-month-old baby and her mother were killed in the drug war last
week as the Peruvian military shot down a plane carrying American
missionaries while American CIA operatives watched. The plane was
apparently mistaken as a drug runner, but conflicting reports relating
to the incident indicate little attempt at confirmation was made
before the shooting started.

Several American newspapers have editorialized on the incident this
week. Many say tighter precautions should be taken to avoid such a
tragedy again, but few have dared to take look at the broader picture
of counterproductive drug prohibition. Many newspapers accept official
US reports that tough policies have helped to reduce the illegal drug
trade in Peru. But more thoughtful journalists looking beyond the
propaganda have shown that drug smuggling and drug corruption continue
to run rampant in Peru (see the excellent piece by Kevin G. Hall at

An editorial from the New York Times (below) touches on these issues,
but somehow still concludes, “If cooperative drug interdiction can be
resumed without continuing risk to innocent fliers, it should be.” By
its very nature, the drug war puts innocent people at risk, and it
will continue to do so. Please write a letter to the NY Times and
other papers that have editorialized on this situation to say that
overly aggressive tactics are only part of the problem – the real
issue is the drug war itself.

NOTE: Would you like to be able to donate the equivalent of $52,800 to
help bring about sensible drug policies and do so without spending a
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Source: New York Times (NY)
Contact: letters@nytimes.com


Several newspapers have editorialized on the Peru shooting, many with
a similar tone to the NY Times editorial. Please send your letter to
some or all of these newspapers as well, or read various editorials
and tailor your letters to each newspaper.

US IL: Editorial: Only Losers In War That We Can’t Win
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n718/a03.html
Pubdate: Tue, 24 Apr 2001
Source: Chicago Sun-Times (IL)
Contact: letters@suntimes.com

US OH: Editorial: Casualties Of A Lost War
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n718/a12.html
Pubdate: Tue, 24 Apr 2001
Source: Cincinnati Post (OH)
Contact: postedits@cincypost.com

US FL: Editorial: Innocent Victims
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n717/a06.html
Pubdate: Tue, 24 Apr 2001
Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2001 Sarasota Herald-Tribune

US MI: Editorial: Drug War
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n717/a09.html
Pubdate: Tue, 24 Apr 2001
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Copyright: 2001 Detroit Free Press
Contact: letters@freepress.com

US NJ: Editorial: A Tragedy In Peru
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n723/a03.html
Pubdate: Tue, 24 Apr 2001
Source: Bergen Record (NJ)
Contact: letterstotheeditor@northjersey.com

US TN: Editorial: Tragedy in Peru
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n723/a04.html
Pubdate: Tue, 24 Apr 2001
Source: Chattanooga Times & Free Press (TN)
Contact: letters@timesfreepress.com

US IL: Editorial: A Fool’s Errand In Latin America
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n722/a03.html
Pubdate: Tue, 24 Apr 2001
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Contact: ctc-TribLetter@Tribune.com

US MA: Editorial: The Plane Truth In Peru
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n720/a05.html
Pubdate: Tue, 24 Apr 2001
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Contact: letter@globe.com

US CA: Editorial: Collateral Damage
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n720/a08.html
Pubdate: Tue, 24 Apr 2001
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Contact: letters@latimes.com



US NY: Editorial: Peru’s Reckless Shooting
URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n717/a10.html
Newshawk: M & M Family
Pubdate: Tue, 24 Apr 2001
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2001 The New York Times Company
Contact: letters@nytimes.com
Website: http://www.nytimes.com/
Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/298
Related: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v01/n714/a07.html

It should not have taken the tragic deaths of two innocent members of
an American missionary family to force Washington to re-examine its
cooperation with Peru’s risky drug interdiction program. Although the
facts of last Friday’s incident are still being sorted out, the deaths
raise serious questions about how Peru’s air force has been carrying
out a program involving help from the Central Intelligence Agency to
fight drug trafficking. The White House is right to suspend the
program’s operations until it can be sure more reliable controls are
in place.

The official rules of engagement are designed to safeguard against
mistaken identifications. They are also meant to compel drug
trafficking planes to land rather than shooting them out of the sky.
But Peru’s record suggests a preference for more aggressive tactics.
Several years before this program began, Peruvian jet fighter planes
fired on a United States military transport, killing an American
airman. Some 30 aircraft have been shot down during the six years of
the joint program, although this is apparently the first time that
American civilians have been killed. While the program is suspended,
President Bush should ask for a review of the previous shooting incidents.

Peru’s pugnacious attitude seems to have been a critical factor on
Friday. Americans working for the C.I.A. spotted an unknown aircraft
flying through a zone frequented by drug traffickers and relayed the
information to the Peruvian military. The Peruvian fighter pilot sent
up to investigate apparently ignored precautions designed to prevent
mistaken identifications and opened fire on the suspected plane,
forcing it to crash-land in the Amazon jungle.

The joint drug interdiction program, authorized by Congress in 1994,
was designed to discourage the growing of coca leaf in Peru by making
it more difficult to bring the product to market. The program has
resulted in a nearly two-thirds drop in coca production in Peru since
1995. Much of that lost output simply moved to Colombia, and in recent
years new marketing channels have opened up in Peru, relying on rivers
and roads rather than the skies. But there is little question that
fear of aerial interdiction has been a significant constraint on
Peruvian drug production.

Unfortunately, for most of the life of this program, military
cooperation with Peru meant cooperation with its autocratic former
president, Alberto Fujimori, and his corrupt intelligence chief,
Vladimiro Montesinos. Both men have now been evicted from power, and
senior military commanders from that era have been replaced. But the
aggressive approach they favored apparently remains. If cooperative
drug interdiction can be resumed without continuing risk to innocent
fliers, it should be. But until it can be certain that Peruvian pilots
will not shoot first and ask questions later, Washington should keep
the program in suspension and under an unbiased review.



To the editor:

In the wake of the missionary plane shooting in Peru, more than Peru’s
“shoot-down” policy needs to be evaluated. The whole
counterproductive, rights-infringing, corruption-producing,
budget-busting, violence-mongering, freedom-hating, race-baiting,
lie-fueled war on drugs ought to be put on trial.

Seven-month-old Charity Bowers is not the first innocent child killed
in the drug war, and she won’t be the last as long as we continue to
accept the myth that force and violence are the best way to address
drug problems.

Stephen Young

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Prepared by Stephen Young – http://www.maximizingharm.com
Focus Alert Specialist