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Bush Leaves Latin America Cold
by New American Media (reposted)
Friday Mar 16th, 2007 7:29 AM
While the U.S. press covered what happened during President Bush's tour of Latin America, Latin American newspapers focused on what wasn't said. NAM writers Daffodil Altan and Elena Shore take the pulse of the Latin American press.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Too little too late was the predominant sentiment about President Bush’s visit in the editorial pages of Latin American newspapers.

As the president made his way through Uruguay, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico, columnists and editors at top papers there repeatedly asked the question, 'Why is the president visiting so late in his term?' They speculated: Is he trying to assuage the damage done to his image by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez? Was he there to say something concrete about the immigration situation in the United States, and the growing sense of anti-immigrant sentiment characterized by months of raids and a stalled comprehensive immigration plan? Although many said they knew better, they hoped something concrete – economic or otherwise – could come of his visit.

Newspapers carried the story of his visit on their front pages, often creating multimedia packages with photos, videos and several reports. But in the editorial pages writers seemed irritated by the hoopla and disruption caused by his motorcades. Many editors were disappointed that talks between Bush and their country’s president often yielded nothing tangible when it came to their gravest concerns: immigration, trade and drug trafficking.

The first leg of Bush's trip to Uruguay, Brazil and Colombia in South America was critiqued for being a "courtesy tour" by Spanish-language newspapers in the United States. The focus of his talks in South America centered on alternative energy in Brazil, combating drug trafficking in Colombia and the future of a free trade agreement in Uruguay. But two other topics – the U.S. immigration policy and the Iraq war – crept up repeatedly on the pages of national newspapers and among the protesters who greeted him in every country.

An article in the March 14 edition of the Brazilian newspaper O Globo, in Rio de Janeiro, reports that analysts saw Bush's tour of Latin America as a "partial success." On the one hand, the article states, Bush agreed to support Brazilian ethanol and alternative energy. On the other, he was unable to placate the anger of millions whose lives are affected by illegal immigration. Facing a wave of unpopularity, Bush's tour was an attempt to improve his image, analysts speculated. But he was haunted during the trip by the rhetoric of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and protests in the streets of cities like Mexico City. This reflected a deep rejection of the American president, according to the report.

Chavez, who initiated a simultaneous counter-tour, spoke to throngs in Argentina, Haiti and other neighboring countries. Ironically, Chavez' anti-Bush tour has highlighted the relative success of the U.S. leader's visit to Latin America, writes Fernando Luis Egaña in the Caracas online newspaper, Analí As Bush makes inroads with the governments of Brazil and Uruguay, Chavez continues to question his intentions. Even Bush and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s plan for ethanol and alternative energy has been criticized by both Chavez and Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Chavez, Egaña writes, must be asking himself, "How can my imperialist arch enemy be the new best friend of my socialist co-believers?" In fact, the more Chavez protests, the better Bush seems to look, according to the article.

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