South America Today

November 6, 2005

So Bush is tripping around South America. We all know that the Argentinians were less than thrilled to have him in their country: (subscription required-use lostinspace and password “balls”)

MAR DEL PLATA � Anti-US demonstrators who marched peacefully against the Summit of the Americas declared their weeklong efforts a triumph yesterday, saying their protests helped delay US plans for a region-wide free trade deal.

Bush failed in his efforts to push the FTAA through. Given his wonderful personality, I can’t for the life of me understand why the South American leaders didn’t fall to their knees and praise him. Oh, wait, he’s probably only seen as the second coming here. Anyway, things did not go swimmingly:

MAR DEL PLATA � Leaders from around the Americas failed yesterday to resolve key differences over how to create a US-sponsored regional free trade zone during a summit in Argentina overshadowed by violent anti-US protests. Talks on creating a Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA, have been stalled. The Bush administration had hoped to jump-start discussions here to establish the world�s most populous free trade bloc.


“We are not going to negotiate something that is harmful to the interests of our people,” said Argentine Foreign Minister Rafael Bielsa, summarizing the stance of Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay � Argentina�s partners in the Mercosur trade bloc � and Venezuela.

The five dissenting countries stated, “The conditions do not exist to attain a hemispheric free trade accord that is balanced and fair with access to markets that is free of subsidies and distorting practices.”

Bummer. Oh well, off to Brazil!

Lula added that it was �not opportune� to discuss FTAA before a crucial WTO meeting next month in Hong Kong where subsidies would be a key issue.

Bush � who travelled to the region to mend fences in Latin America � left for Brazil in the second part of a regional trip.

He will likely continue looking for support today in Brazil, where he will be Lula�s guest at a barbecue. He will then visit Panama on Monday before returning to the US.

The US president�s visit to Brazil is aimed at strengthening relations with Lula, who was mistrusted by Washington after becoming the first elected leftist leader of Latin America�s largest economy in 2003.

Before departing for Brazil, Bush said �it would be concerning if there is no consensus� to include the stances of the two blocs of countries in the final communique.

My favorite quote:

In comments to reporters, Chilean President Ricardo Lagos suggested that the talks between regional leaders had at times been tense.

“Something happened here that rarely happened in other meetings: the call to speak out loud was taken up by everyone,” Lagos said.

“At times, we all talked out loud, perhaps too loud, but it made the meeting that more interesting,” he added.

I bet Georgie got all red in the face and threatened to take his toys and go home more than once. As for the reception he is getting in Brazil, its about normal:

The Federal Police and Army are mounting the tightest security plan ever, declaring Brasilia’s airspace an exclusion zone, effecting anti-bomb raids at the places Bush will visit, use of canines and mobilization of hundreds of police agents and soldiers.

But the local social movement announces protests in at least eight cities under the slogan “Bush Out”, starting on Friday 4 in Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Belem and Mato Grosso do Sul, on the border with Paraguay, where the US plans to build a military base.

And this:

Bush will meet privately with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, followed by a bilateral delegation session, which sources leaked will concern agricultural subsidies.

He will have the greatest security ever mounted in a Brazilian city with 1,200 military police, 500 police, and 100 soldiers, in addition to an undisclosed number of US secret service and Brazilian intelligence operatives, Federal Police agent Wilson Salles Damazio announced.

He said that all airports are on alert and will be closed for the Bush landing and take-off, while two helicopters and four launches will patrol Lake Brasilia.

It’s like a bad traveling circus. And Bush is the freak. As for his Panama trip, there will probably be less protests:

Anti-Americanism is not an important aspect of Panamanian political life these days, as it was when the US hold on the former Canal Zone was still in dispute. Nevertheless, polls suggest that by an overwhelming margin Panamanians are against the Iraq War and by lesser majorities tend to frown on such key US policies in the region as Plan Colombia and attempts to oust Hugo Ch�vez as Venezuela’s president. Free trade with the United States, however, probably has the support in principle of a plurality of Panamanians and whether an agreement would be supported or opposed by most citizens would depend on how the contents of any specific deal are perceived.

Cross posted at annatopia.

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