After cracking down on cocaine trafficking, Peru's new government has been told that increased U.S. antidrug assistance may be slow in coming due to displeasure in Washington with other Peruvian actions that are at odds with U.S. interests in Latin America.
Peru has asked the United States for six aircraft, plus radios and small arms, to help its under-equipped police battle rich narcotics traffickers. Nearly half the world's coca crop is grown in this country.
President Reagan's special adviser on narcotics, Carlton Turner, visited Peru earlier this month and, according to Peruvian officials, informed them that bureaucratic processing delays in Washington would likely mean that Lima's urgent request for additional assistance cannot be met until a year from now.
Turner and U.S. Ambassador David Jordan also reportedly indicated to at least one senior Peruvian official that extra aid might be forthcoming sooner if the new president, Alan Garcia, would moderate his unilateral decision to limit foreign debt service payments and would show greater consideration of other U.S. political and economic interests in the region.
This apparent attempt to link added U.S. antidrug support with Peruvian concessions in other areas has upset officials here.
"They're waiting to see what we do on the debt, that's why they say the Washington bureaucracy is moving slowly on this allocation," said Agustin Mantilla, the deputy interior minister heading Peru's anticocaine drive, in an interview.
"I think the United States should separate its international affairs and the debt issue from what should be a concern for the mental and physical health of its own people. These should be two different matters."
U.S. Embassy officials, who have praised Peru's turnaround in the drug war, declined to discuss the assistance problem on the record. But informed foreign observers supported the view that, in addition to normal bureaucratic delays in Washington, fast action on Peru's aid request seems to have been impeded by U.S. irritation with some of Garcia's other moves.
*At the White House, an aide to Turner said he has been hospitalized and hence was not able to comment on the Peruvians' account.
Garcia caused international waves by announcing at his inauguration in July that for one year, Peru would limit payments on its foreign debt to 10 percent of its export earnings. Since then, Garcia has stirred further U.S. annoyance by rescinding state contracts with American oil companies, accusing them of not having done enough exploration, and by expressing sympathy for the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and warmly welcoming Nicaraguan Vice President Sergio Ramirez to Lima earlier this month.
Drugs had been a point of contention in U.S.-Peruvian relations under Garcia's predecessor, Fernando Belaunde Terry, whose embattled government had made only weak efforts at curbing the fast-growing cocaine business.
Then, in a surprise wave of commando-style raids soon after Garcia's inauguration, the new government demonstrated its political will to attack the problem. Peruvian officials say those initial raids exposed 22 clandestine airstrips, captured five light aircraft, demolished eight cocaine-processing labs and hauled in 3.5 tons of coca paste.
They say the police operations will continue, but will be hampered by Washington's slow response to Peruvian calls for boosted assistance in correcting serious shortages of firearms, communication equipment and aircraft to ferry police teams into mountain and jungle regions where traffickers operate.
"I'm disillusioned," said Mantilla, who met with Turner and Jordan. "They've told me I'll have to continue working against the drug trade, and they'll keep watching me, and maybe by the start of fiscal 1987 . . . there will be a larger U.S. allocation for us. Well, I will continue working with what I have, but we won't be able to do as much as we'd like."
Garcia has said the decision to move against the narcotics trade was taken not to get more U.S. aid but out of a moral wish to purge Peruvian society of the drug menace. Also part of this morality campaign is a government effort to clean up drug-related corruption in the police, armed forces, judiciary and government bureaucracy. Garcia's aides have fired more than 200 senior police officers -- nearly a third of the force's leadership.
But Peruvian officials acknowledge that the anticocaine campaign also included the hope that Washington would quickly respond with special gestures of assistance.
"It's a case of mutual responsibility," said Mantilla, who was Garcia's chief of staff during the election campaign. "My president has said it is our moral duty to do what we're doing. But a great part of this drug evil is done to the United States. Eighty percent of what is produced here is exported. If the North Americans don't want to fight alongside us, it's their problem."
Using a long pointer and a large colored wall map of Peru, Mantilla outlined the river valleys that stretch along the eastern slopes of the Andes mountains down the length of Peru, providing fertile ground for cultivation of the coca plant, Peru's number one export crop.
In the northeast, where Peru touches Colombia and Brazil in vast lowland jungles, Mantilla indicated a wide area in which, he said, drug traffickers, chased from Colombia, have set up clandestine landing strips and cocaine processing labs.
Given the broad territory and difficult terrain in which traffickers can be found, and the well-armed, well-financed forces they can muster, Mantilla said Peru is badly outmatched for a fight. He said a 400-man antidrug force headquartered in Tingo Maria, in a region where half of the Peruvian coca crop is grown, has only eight automatic and four M1 rifles, 20 shotguns, 170 automatic pistols and 57 revolvers.
Mantilla said that he has asked U.S. help in obtaining two helicopters, two amphibian planes and two transport planes, plus radios, trucks and weapons.
Referring to the murder by drug traffickers in April 1984 of Colombian Justice Minister Rodrigo Lara Bonilla, Mantilla he said: "Maybe we'll have to wait for them to kill one of our ministers so that the U.S. bureaucracy becomes convinced."
Peru is already scheduled to receive $4.4 million in U.S. antidrug aid in the coming year under programs aimed at training Peru's antinarcotics police force and substituting coca plants with other crops.
In making his pitch for more aid, Mantilla is understood to have had some "undiplomatic" exchanges with Turner of the White House.
According to a Peruvian source knowledgeable about the talks, Turner told Mantilla that before receiving more U.S. assistance, Peru should undertake several large police operations in the upper Huallaga River valley, a hilly semitropical zone about 250 miles northeast of Lima that accounts for at least half the coca leaves grown in Peru.
Mantilla is said to have rejected the requests as unnecessary and impractical. Until other crops can be developed to compensate Peruvian peasants sufficiently for the elimination of lucrative coca harvests, Lima officials say eradication efforts must proceed gradually.