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Bush takes shot at Venezuelan leader on trade

In a speech, President Bush said ensuring social justice in Latin American requires choosing between “two competing visions,” a veiled swipe at his main Latrin American critic, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
US President Bush and his counterpart Brazilian Lula in Brasilia
U.S. President Bush, left, listens as his counterpart Brazilian Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva speaks in Brasilia on Sunday.Paulo Whitaker / Reuters
/ Source: news services

In a veiled swipe at his main regional critic, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, President Bush said Sunday that some want to roll back democracy in Latin America by playing to fear and blaming others for their failures.

In a speech, Bush said ensuring social justice in Latin American requires choosing between “two competing visions.”

He urged people in the region to pick democracy because it is founded on representative government, integration into the world community “and a faith in the transformative power of freedom in individual lives.”

“The other seeks to roll back the democratic progress of the past two decades, by playing to fear, pitting neighbor against neighbor and blaming others for their own failures to provide for their people,” Bush said.

Bush: More work to do Bush acknowledged earlier on Sunday that he has more work to do to persuade Brazil of the value of a vast proposed free-trade zone for the Western Hemisphere.

Bush spoke after meeting with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was instrumental at a two-day summit of Latin American leaders that ended Saturday in preventing the nations on agreeing to restart stalled talks on creating a trade bloc stretching from Alaska to Argentina.

“He’s got to be convinced, just like the people of America must be convinced, that a trade arrangement in our hemisphere is good for jobs, it’s good for the quality of life,” Bush said.

Bush was in Brazil — which has immense influence on its neighbors as the largest nation in Latin America — for the first time as president, and also had as his goal while there to improve the United States’ image in the region.

Two visions of Latin America
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush's speech laid out two contrary visions for Latin America — one, supported by the United States, that would see democratic institutions expand; and another, supported by leaders he did not name, that would roll back the region to an earlier time.

But it was clear that Bush’s remarks were being aimed at Chavez, Bush’s biggest foe in the region.

At a Sunday meeting with young leaders, Bush brushed off the enormous, sometimes violent demonstrations against him in Argentina, protests stoked by a fiery Chavez speech.

“I expect there to be dissent,” he said. “That’s what freedom is all about.”

No firm date
The division on trade among the 34 nations gathered in Argentina for the Summit of the Americas came after Brazil hedged at setting a firm date for new talks on a Free Trade Agreement for the Americas. Silva said Brazil preferred to wait for worldwide trade negotiations to proceed first, a view that was shared by four other holdout nations — Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay and Paraguay.

The United States and 28 other countries supported setting a firm date for new, hemispheric negotiations.

Brazil had initially sided with the United States on a regional trade zone. But Brazil now demands that the United States reduce farm subsidies that Silva says would crowd out Brazilian products.

Silva repeated his view that resolving those issues through separate negotiations for a global trade deal — known as the Doha round — must come first.

“We agree that the reduction, with a view toward the elimination, of agricultural subsidies will be a key to balance,” he said.

Though that wasn’t how Bush wanted to proceed, he seemed to accept Silva’s approach while at his side.

“The president said, ‘Let’s work together on Doha and see how that goes and we’ll continue working on the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas,”’ Bush said. “Such an agreement will not be done if the president thinks it’s (not) in the interest of the people.”

As Bush’s motorcade passed the entrance to the Granja do Torto presidential retreat where he met with Silva and was being treated to Brazilian barbecue, about 150 demonstrators shouted “Fora Bush,” which means “Get out Bush.” They burned a small effigy of Bush while chanting “Bush fascist, you are a terrorist!”

Elsewhere in Brasilia, about 40 students peacefully occupied a local McDonald’s, saying they had come to “one of the symbols of capitalism” to protest the American president’s presence.

‘Subservient ... to the Americans’
At Bush’s meeting with the young leaders, Carlos Pio, a professor of international relations at the University of Brasilia, asked Bush to respond to some Latin Americans’ belief that the United States exploits democracies, markets and civil rights.

Congressman Joao Batista de Oliveira Araujo also said Sunday that by inviting Bush, Silva “showed how subservient he is to the Americans.”

“Bush is repudiated throughout the entire world because the U.S. army is killing innocent people and because the monetary institutions controlled by the U.S. drop economic bombs on people,” the congressman said.

Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world. Its large population represents a lucrative market for U.S. products that Bush would like to expand.

“It’s in our interest that our neighborhood be a prosperous neighborhood,” Bush said.

Two lives, two leaders The two presidents couldn’t have more different backgrounds. While Bush was raised in wealth, educated at top schools and is the son of a former president, Silva is a former shoeshine boy, grade-school dropout, lathe operator and union leader.

Both leaders are dealing with scandals that have involved top aides and driven down their popularity.

White House adviser I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby was recently indicted on charges of perjury and obstructing justice and top aide Karl Rove is under investigation for his role in revealing the identity of an undercover CIA agent. Top Silva aides have resigned in a kickback scandal.