President Bush, responding to pleas and pressure by cocaine-ravaged South American nations, will attend an international drug summit within the next 90 days. Bush, who during his 1988 presidential campaign promised to call such a summit, accepted an invitation Tuesday to attend one issued earlier in the day by three countries tired of waiting - Colombia, Peru and Bolivia."Obviously we will go," said White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater. As recently as last week, Fitzwater's office said a long-standing proposal for a global drug summit was still under consideration.
In its 1988 anti-drug bill, Congress called on then-President Reagan to host a drug summit among western hemispheric nations. Reagan agreed, but nothing ever came of it.
Bush said during the 1988 campaign that he would host a summit. But until the invitation from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, the White House repeatedly refused to name or even suggest a possible date.
On Tuesday, however, Fitzwater said, "We had always planned to do so (host a summit) by the end of the year."
Fitzwater said U.S. officials "will have to study the specific programs and will be in contact with the Latin American leaders concerning timing, location and agenda items."
He said Jamaica, Caracas, Venezuela and Barbados are among the locales being considered for the summit.
Colombia, Peru and Bolivia are the world's major producers of cocaine, and the United States is the biggest consumer. In recent years, drug lords have targeted Europe as another major market.
Presidents Alan Garcia of Peru, Jaime Zamora of Bolivia and Virgilio Barco of Colombia said in a joint statement Tuesday that the nations must come together to plan a joint strategy to combat the multibillion-dollar drug trade.
In Colombia meanwhile, suspected cocaine-cartel hit squads assassinated a top cleric's brother and two newspaper employees, and raked a public cafeteria with gunfire, killing at least four people and wounding four.
Police said the four separate shootings Tuesday in the hometown of the notorious Medellin cartel were the latest attacks in the "total war" against society declared last month by the Medellin and Cali cartels.
In a separate incident, Rodrigo Sarasti, a former worker in the national Senate whose brother is the bishop of Barrancadermeja, was gunned down Tuesday night in Medellin, police reported.
The two newspaper employees slain Tuesday worked for the daily El Espectador, whose aggressive campaign against the drug cartels made it the target of a 200-pound bomb Sept. 1 that damaged the building and killed two passers-by.
The newspaper's regional manager, Marina Lopez, was driving home with her mother at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday when gunmen sprayed the car with machine-gun fire, killing Lopez. Her mother was wounded.
An hour later, gunmen killed circulation director Miguel Soler as he returned to work after eating lunch at home, police said. The assassins evaded an extensive police dragnet already set up to hunt for Lopez's killers.