Source: Standard-Times (MA)
Pubdate: Sun, 19 Apr 1998
Author:  Tom Raum, Associated Press writer


SANTIAGO, Chile -- The hemisphere's 34 democracies charted plans for a
free-trade zone from Alaska to Cape Horn today, even without U.S.
congressional blessings, and reached agreements on education, drugs and
human rights.

At the second Summit of the Americas, the United States also held fast to
its insistence that Cuba continue to be excluded from such gatherings --
even as it was announced that Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien would
travel to Cuba later this month to meet Fidel Castro.

Canada will host the next summit of Western Hemisphere leaders.

President Clinton, who came to Santiago without the fast-track trade
authority he needs to finish the job of hemispheric free trade by 2005,
pledged to redouble his efforts to get it.

"I assure you that our commitment ... will be in the fast lane of our
concerns," Clinton said, brushing aside his inability to win support for the
initiative from U.S. lawmakers, particularly from his own Democratic party.

Although trade was the summit's centerpiece, yesterday's talks focused on
other areas.

The leaders embraced a $6.1 billion three-year package to help improve

Summit partners have set a 2010 goal for 100 percent of the hemisphere's
children to have access to at least a primary-school education; 75 percent
for high school.

"We must ensure that schools and teachers reach into every corner of the
continent," said Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo.

Most of the package would be in loans by international lending agencies like
the World Bank, but $130 million would come from U.S. programs, said U.S.
officials, who announced the program in advance of today's final summit

In all, the hemispheric summit was announcing some $45 billion in loans over
the next three years for poverty reduction, health services, helping small
busineses and education.

In other agreements yesterday, the summit partners:

- - Agreed to establish a Multilateral Counterdrug Alliance to coordinate the
war on drugs in the Americas. In part, it is being set up to soothe
irritation felt by Latin Amrican nations toward the current U.S. drug
certification process, where the United States withholds foreign aid to
nations it considers unworthy allies on drug issues.

- - Gave support to the creation of an office, as part of the International
Commission for Human Rights, to help resolve human-rights cases involving
attacks and threats of violence against members of the news media.

But the upbeat declarations by some of the summit participants obscured some
major irritants, including the drug certification issue and the question of
Cuban participation.

Under U.S. law, the State Department must certify a country is cooperating
in the war on drugs before a nation qualifies for foreign aid, a process
that annoys Latin American countries.

The new Multilateral Counterdrug Alliance will supplement, rather than
replace, that system, U.S. officials said.

There are also differences on Cuba. Some nations want Castro included in the
next summit. The Clinton administration has opposed Cuban participation
under its present communist government.