U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is in Peru, where he joins other foreign ministers of the Organization of American States Tuesday in ratifying the Inter-American Democratic Charter. He goes on to Colombia for an on-site assessment of the Colombian Government's struggle against insurgents and drug traffickers.
Mr. Powell is joining foreign ministers and ambassadors from the entire hemisphere - with the exception of Cuba - for an OAS special session to ratify the charter. It declares democracy a fundamental right and provides for the suspension of a member country whose democratically-constituted government is overthrown.
The secretary will also hold bilateral talks with Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo to among other things congratulate him on his country's successful democratic transition after the departure of former President Alberto Fujimori, last year.
Mr. Powell on his first South American trip since taking office goes Tuesday to Colombia for meetings underlining U.S. support for the government of President Andres Pastrana and its two-front war against drug traffickers and leftist insurgents.
He told reporters traveling with him he will make a personal assessment of how Mr. Pastrana's Plan Colombia national reconstruction program is working.
The plan - underwritten with $1.3 billion in American aid - has shown only mixed results in combating the drug trade, thus far, and there has been Colombian criticism of the slow pace of delivery of promised U.S. hardware, including Blackhawk helicopters.
However, Mr. Powell said Plan Colombia is nowhere close to full implementation and that American money and hardware in only now beginning to flow. He says, when he returns to Washington later in the week, he will press Congressional leaders for full funding of President Bush's Andean Regional Initiative. It would provide Colombia and six neighboring countries with nearly $900 million in additional aid to combat the drug trade.
Mr. Powell also says it is his "expectation and hope" the United States will resume drug surveillance cooperation with both Peru and Colombia.
The program - under which the United States provided radar planes to track the flights of possible drug smugglers - has been suspended since April when a plane carrying American missionaries was mistaken for a drug flight and shot down by the Peruvian Air Force, with the loss of two civilian lives.
Mr. Powell says - contrary to published reports - the Bush Administration has not decided to resume the controversial project and top officials will review the results of two investigations before deciding if the operation can resume.
The secretary also made clear that - despite calls for some Republican congressmen - the administration has no plans to directly help the Colombian Government fight insurgents and that U.S. aid will continue to be limited to anti-drug units.