Senate Finance Committee Chairman Lloyd Bentsen is asking the Treasury Department to investigate the possibility of swapping Latin American debts for money that would be used to clean up pollution in the Western Hemisphere.

Bentsen, D-Texas, said Saturday he is particularly interested in "debt-for-nature" swaps that would involve Mexican debt and cleaning up pollution along the U.S.-Mexico border, including the dumping of raw sewage into Rio Grande.On Friday, Bentsen asked Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady for an accounting of the Mexican debt situation before Congress assesses his plan.

Latin American debtors have become increasingly interested in reducing their foreign debt in unconventional ways, Bentsen said, citing "debt-for-nature swaps" in Costa Rica, Equador and Bolivia, in which small quantities of their foreign debt have been converted to local currencies for investment in environmental projects.