Friday, November 04, 2005

A little reminiscent of Nixon is Chile, Bush gets protesters by the thousands...

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina Nov 4, 2005 — A crowd of 10,000 people chanting "Get out Bush!" swarmed the streets of this Argentine resort Friday, hours before the hemisphere's leaders sat down to debate free trade, immigration and job creation at the fourth Summit of the Americas.

Before dawn, thousands greeted a train bringing the last group of protesters from Buenos Aires, including Bolivian presidential hopeful Evo Morales and soccer great Diego Maradona, who donned a T-shirt accusing President Bush of war crimes.

Chanting "Fascist Bush! You are the terrorist!" the protesters hung from the engine and moved up the sides of the train, trying to shake hands with those inside.

Later, they took to the streets, heading toward a stadium where Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was scheduled to make a speech before joining the summit. Chavez arrived early Friday, saying he was "inspired" by the protesters.

The march was mostly peaceful, although some self-proclaimed anarchists spray-painted slogans on a bank. Most businesses along the route had closed, except for a fruit stand protected by a wall of wooden crates.

"So far, I've only lost four bananas," owner Blas Zanghi said.

Bush was meeting with Argentine President Nestor Kirchner as well as Central American leaders Friday before joining the 34-nation summit and promoting the Free Trade Area of the Americas. The deal proposed by Washington would break down trade barriers from Alaska to the tip of South America.

Leaders attending the two-day summit agreed ahead of time to focus on creating jobs and reducing poverty. In recent days, however, attention has shifted to the free trade issue and sparring between the United States and Chavez, a leftist whose government has used his country's vast oil wealth on social programs for the poor.

Washington maintains the proposed free trade accord, which has stalled amid opposition by several Latin American countries, is vital to creating jobs and increasing wealth in the region.

"What we're looking to do is find ways to unlock some of these economies so they get the kind of investment they need, they get the kind of trade they need and they have the flexibility within their labor markets to generate employment," Thomas Shannon, U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, said Thursday.

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