President Bush flew here for his much-heralded summit with three LatinAmerican presidents and proclaimed after about three hours of meetings that the four nations had formed "the first anti-drug cartel."
Bush and the presidents of Colombia, Bolivia and Peru said that fighting drug traffic required effective efforts to reduce demand for drugs in consuming countries and to stimulate economic development in producing countries. However, the presidents did not discuss extradition of drug criminals, specific levels of American economic aid or the use of the U.S. military to fight the drug traffic, according to Bush's spokesman, Marlin Fitzwater.
Bush promised in an 11-page "Declaration of Cartagena" to seek
congressional approval of new money to help the effort. The communique also pledged the four governments to control chemicals used in refining cocaine, share money and property seized from traffickers, exchange intelligence information, and control weapons, planes and other equipment used in drug trafficking.
U.S. and South American officials negotiated details of the document until Wednesday night before coming to final agreement. A source close to the talks said the American negotiators wanted to put the major emphasis on police and military repression of drug trafficking but yielded to the South Americans' insistence that greater emphasis should be put on the need for financial aid and economic development as necessary conditions for controlling the traffic.
The South American governments reluctantly acceded to a U.S. demand for a clause specify ing that the armed forces of the three South American countries may
participate in the fight against trafficking, the source said. The Colombian military already is involved, but the military leaderships of Peru and Bolivia have balked at joining police in anti-drug efforts.
Fitzwater described the meeting as "cordial and businesslike . . . very complete."
Others took a somewhat more skeptical view.
"As they say in the United States, 'Where's the beef?' " asked Peru's Alan Garcia in a joint press conference at the end of the summit.
Despite the question, the four participants - Bush, Garcia, Bolivia's Jaime Paz Zamora and Colombia's Virgilio Barco Vargas - each pronounced themselves basically happy with the meeting. While no new specifics steps were agreed upon, they said, the fact that the four presidents met at all was an important advance.
"We have begun a form of perestroika," Paz said at the joint news conference, adding that he was "fully satisfied" with the results.
"For the first time," said Garcia, "we have come together with the president of the United States." That fact, he declared, marks the beginning of "a new collaborative approach" and a "new chapter" in relations between Latin America and the United States.
The meeting, said Bush, "demonstrates solidarity" between the United States, the world's largest consumer of cocaine, and the three nations that are the chief sources of the drug.
Paz said that the communique showed that the United States now accepts the idea that coca leaf production cannot be curtailed without major economic support for the economies of the coca-growing countries, Bolivia and Peru.
The document stated, "The United States is also prepared to cooperate with the Andean Parties in a wide range of initiatives for development, trade and investment in order to strengthen and sustain long-term economic growth."
But Paz said the South American presidents recognized that U.S. budget problems make it difficult for Bush to promise all the aid needed.
"We indicated that we do not expect it to come only from the United States," he said, but other developed countries should also help with financial support.
In the communique, the United States also pledged "increased cooperation in equipment and training to the law enforcement bodies" of the Andean countries.
But the presidents' declaration left several major questions unresolved.
Barco, for example, denied news reports that his government had made a deal with traffickers.
"These rumors are completely and totally false," he said. "Colombian law cannot be negotiated."
Barco did not, however, mention the word "extradition." And although he insisted that drug traffickers must "give everything up, including themselves," he made no commitment that the Colombian government would send those who did surrender to the United States to face trial.
Extradition is the fate that members of the Colombia drug cartels
apparently fear most. When the assassination of a presidential candidate by traffickers last August prompted Barco to approve extradition, the cartels fought back with a campaign of terror.
Recently, messages from the traffickers have indicated that they would end their war with the government and reform. Observers say their aim is to persuade Barco to drop extradition.
Separately, the United States and Peru agreed to make a separate exchange of diplomatic notes reinforcing their commitment to the extradition of accused drug traffickers.
Bush pledged to continue to seek economic aid to help wean the economies of the Andean nations from cocaine. But he made no commitment to an amount and specifically said the United States would not try to match the loss of cocaine revenue "dollar for dollar" or "job for job."
"I don't think we can do that," he said. The South American nations should try to end coca production, despite the economic costs, because "growing drugs for the international market" is "immoral."
Bolivia's Paz, however, painted a picture of how difficult that will be for his impoverished country. He said Tuesday night that coca accounts for half of its national economy.
In a separate, bilateral agreement with Colombia, the United States pledged to try to open the U.S. market to additional Colombian exports that would replace drugs, but, again, Bush made no specific promises.
American consumers "do not want to pay higher prices," he said when asked about efforts to increase the international price of coffee, one of Colombia's largest legal exports.
The United States and Peru also signed an agreement permitting the exchange of tax records, bank statements and other information in order to uncover illicit drug profits and trace drug money-laundering.
Bush also repeated his pledge to continue efforts to reduce demand for drugs in America.
Next to demand reduction, "all other tactics pale into insignificance," Colombia's Barco said as he welcomed the three other leaders to the summit site, a Colombian navy base on a small peninsula. "The only law the narco-traffickers do not violate," he said, "is the law of supply and demand."
Meanwhile Thursday: An armed group kidnapped the Rev. Francis Amico, an American Roman Catholic priest, as he and some nuns were heading to a nearby church to celebrate a mass, the RCN radio network reported. He was the third U.S. citizen taken prisoner in Colombia this week.
Despite intense security, a small bomb near Barranquila Airport damaged a voltage regulator on a power line that fed the air conditioning of the airport, where Bush landed two hours later.
In the central Colombian town of Barancabermeja, a toll booth on the highway was blown up with dynamite and a wall near the booth was painted with the message in Spanish, "Gringos Get Out Of Colombia!"
- Information from AP was used in this report.