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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 April 2007, 06:31 GMT 07:31 UK
Peru leader gets emergency powers
By Dan Collyns
BBC News, Lima

Alan Garcia
Mr Garcia has promised not to abuse the powers
Peru's parliament has granted emergency powers to President Alan Garcia in order to deal with drug trafficking and organised crime.

Congress overwhelmingly approved the move but around 20 Congressmen walked out of the session before the vote.

President Garcia has promised not to abuse the powers, which are valid for the next 60 days.

He will only have the power to rule by decree on nine specific types of crime, most of which relate to trafficking.

Drug violence rise

A prolonged strike in the centre of the country by coca farmers demanding the government cease its eradication of their crop may have prompted this vote.

Peru is the world's second biggest producer of cocaine and recent years have seen an increase in production and drug-related violence.

Peruvian congressmen strongly approved the measure which will allow President Garcia to rule on offences related to cocaine production, smuggling and organised crime without seeking their approval.

Peruvian soldiers in the jungle
Peru has tried to crack down on cocaine producers

Twenty-two opposition politicians walked out of the session in protest at the vote.

Mr Garcia vowed to take a heavy hand against drug trafficking cartels, which have increased their presence in Peru in recent years.

Peruvians are becoming more concerned about violent crime and many are likely to welcome the move.

Analysts say Mr Garcia will use the 60-day period to toughen jail sentences for cocaine production and trafficking and close up what many in the government see as loopholes in the current legislation against the illegal drug trade.

Critics say this move is an attempt to boost Mr Garcia's powers in the face of flagging public approval.

Polls indicate his popularity has dropped below half - his worst approval rating since taking office last year.




SEE ALSO
Peru coca farmers warn government
19 Apr 07 |  Americas
Peruvian anti-coca team fired on
13 Apr 07 |  Americas
Garcia begins fresh term in Peru
29 Jul 06 |  Americas
Profile: Alan Garcia
05 Jun 06 |  Americas
Country profile: Peru
25 Oct 06 |  Country profiles

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