Bush visit denounced by Chavez


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

        Mr. Chávez quickly shot back in an interview on a popular
        morning television program in Argentina, dismissing the
        ethanol plan as ³a crazy thing, off the wall.² He accused
        the United States of trying ³to substitute the production of
        foodstuffs for animals and human beings with the production
        of foodstuffs for vehicles, to sustain the American way of


March 10, 2007

Bush and Chávez Spar at Distance Over Latin Visit

SÃO PAULO, Brazil, March 9 ‹ President Bush began the first full day of his 
weeklong trip to Latin America here on Friday promising job-creating aid but 
ended up competing for attention with President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who 
called the American visit an act of imperialism, adding, ³Gringo, go home!²

³I don¹t think America gets enough credit for trying to help improve people¹s 
lives,² Mr. Bush said, speaking at a joint news conference with Brazil¹s 
president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

But while President Bush pressed that point, President Chávez led an 
³anti-imperialist² rally at which he railed against what he called American 
hypocrisy and greed, and called Mr. Bush a ³political cadaver.²

³The Bush plan is ridiculous,² Mr. Chávez said at the gathering in Buenos Aires,
across the Río de la Plata from Montevideo, Uruguay, Mr. Bush¹s next stop. ³He 
thinks he is Columbus, discovering poverty after seven years in power.²

Mr. Bush kicked off his tour ‹ the longest Latin American trip of his presidency
‹ by completing an agreement with Mr. da Silva to increase the development of 
ethanol as a leading alternative to oil. Mr. Chávez¹s influence in the region 
stems from Venezuela¹s oil wealth, which he is using to build a loose coalition 
of left-leaning, anti-American countries.

But Mr. Chávez quickly shot back in an interview on a popular morning television
program in Argentina, dismissing the ethanol plan as ³a crazy thing, off the 
wall.² He accused the United States of trying ³to substitute the production of 
foodstuffs for animals and human beings with the production of foodstuffs for 
vehicles, to sustain the American way of life.²

Bush administration officials have sought to play down Mr. Chávez, contending 
his influence is overblown by the news media and noting that South American 
polls show him with regional ratings no better than Mr. Bush¹s. President Bush 
refuses even to mention his name.

At the rally Friday night, Mr. Chávez said he had watched Mr. Bush on television
in Brazil and concluded that ³he is afraid to say my name² because Mr. Chávez¹s 
vision of ³21st century socialism² is advancing in the region.

³Iraq, Iraq, Iraq, terrorism, security, Iraq, Iraq, Iraq,² he said mockingly. 
³He seems incapable of developing even a single idea.²

In spite of the Chávez avoidance, though, Mr. Bush¹s trip seemed intended to 
counter the Venezuelan¹s anti-American message, signs of which have been visible

The police have clashed with thousands of protesters, many carrying signs 
calling Mr. Bush a murderer and a fascist. A group of Mayan priests in Guatemala
said Friday that they would ³purify² a sacred site of ³bad spirits² after Mr. 
Bush visits it early next week.

Security was intense, the most elaborate ever for a visiting head of state in 
Brazil, local officials said. Two helicopters hovered above Mr. Bush¹s extended 
motorcade here Friday, and his hotel was ringed with military sharpshooters and 
other security officers, though demonstrators burned an American flag close by.

The stadium rally Mr. Chávez attended was sponsored by union groups with ties to
the Peronist government in Argentina, and a faction of the Mothers of the Plaza 
de Mayo, a human rights group led by Hebe de Bonafini.(She has expressed 
satisfaction at the Sept. 11 attacks, saying that Americans deserved a taste of 
their own medicine, and has also recently made anti-Semitic remarks.)

Mr. da Silva¹s political party even lent its support to the people protesting 
Mr. Bush¹s visit to Brazil.

Mr. Bush seemed annoyed when a Brazilian reporter asked whether he agreed that 
³the U.S. really had its back turned to Latin America.²

³The characterization that our back has been turned is just, it is not borne out
by the facts,² Mr. Bush said, with his shoulders tightening and his voice 
turning stern. ³It may be a perception, but the facts dispel that, and that¹s 
why I¹ve come.²

He added, ³So my trip is to explain as clearly as I can that our nation is 
generous and compassionate, that when we see poverty, we care; that when we see 
illiteracy, we want to do something about it.²

Mr. Bush¹s motorcade took him through the regional constituency that Mr. Chávez 
has been trying to court: people living in crushing poverty beside the thriving 
upper classes that benefit from increased trade with the United States.

At one point, the president¹s limousine had only a few feet separating it on 
either side from the cement-walled, tin-roofed huts lining a road on the 
motorcade route. Bare-chested children and their parents gathered in doorways, 
on roofs and in windows as he passed, watched warily by Brazilian troops 
carrying submachine guns.

In a country with a nominally leftist president in a region where the leftist 
philosophy is ascendant, especially among the poor, Mr. Bush referred repeatedly
to United States efforts to address the yawning gap between the region¹s 
economic classes.

At the news conference with Mr. da Silva, he stressed that he had doubled aid to
the region to $1.6 billion annually ‹ though that figure will drop below $1.5 
billion in the next fiscal year. Mr. Bush described it as ³social justice money²
that ultimately helped the poor.

Speaking about the ethanol deal, he said, ³When you¹re growing your way out of 
dependence on oil, you¹re dependent upon people who work the land.² He added 
that ³the distribution of wealth, the distribution of opportunity to farmers, 
particularly the smaller farmers in our respective countries, will enable the 
economy to be more on a firm foundation.²

Under the ethanol agreement ‹ signed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and 
the Brazilian foreign minister, Celso Amorim, earlier on Friday ‹ the United 
States and Brazil will share technology to enhance ethanol production and push 
its development in other Latin American and Caribbean countries.

But despite the agreement, some strains were visible between Mr. da Silva and 
Mr. Bush.

Mr. da Silva is hopeful that the United States will reduce its tariff of 54 
cents a gallon on Brazilian ethanol, which is made primarily from sugar cane ‹ a
trade barrier that protects the American farmers who produce corn for ethanol.

But when Mr. da Silva was asked about the possibility of eliminating the tariff,
Mr. Bush jumped in. ³It¹s not going to happen,² he said, noting that it is 
congressionally mandated through his term.

Mr. da Silva joked: ³If I had that capacity for persuasion that you think I 
might have, who knows? I might have convinced President Bush to do so many other
things that I couldn¹t even mention here.²

The Brazilian president is caught in the middle of the fight between Mr. Chávez 
and Mr. Bush, balancing his desire to expand trade with the United States to 
staying true to Latin America¹s Mercosur trade alliance, which has Venezuela, 
among others, as a member.

In his opening comments he pledged his allegiance to an integrated South 
America, seeming to send a message that Mr. Bush¹s fight with Mr. Chávez has 
nothing to do with him. ³We respect the political and economic options of each 
country² in the region, he said.

Jim Rutenberg reported from São Paulo, and Larry Rohter from Buenos Aires.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

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