Updating the last post– Tim Padgett writes for Time (web exclusive):
President George W. Bush shouldn’t have been too surprised by the angry â€” and ultimately violent â€” welcome he received Friday at the 4th Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata, Argentina. After pledging during his 2000 election campaign to correct Washington’s indifference to Latin America, the president is viewed as having all but turned his back on the region after most Latin American capitals declined to back his invasion of Iraq. But Bush’s hemispheric cold shoulder has backfired: It created a political vacuum that has been largely filled by neo-leftists like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who was expected to join tens of thousands of raucous demonstrators Friday marching through Mar del Plata to denounce Bush and his all-but-doomed efforts to forge a hemispheric free trade pact.
Far from being the mejor amigo he promised to be, Bush today is arguably more unpopular in Latin America than any U.S. president in history. In Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, a recent poll showed 64% have a poor or very poor opinion of him. Elsewhere in the region, Bush’s approval rating usually falls below 25%. Part of the problem is broad opposition to the Iraq war; another is the perception that Bush is a Monroe Doctrine throwback to heavy-handed U.S. interventionism in the region. That image caught fire after the Bush Administration was widely accused of backing a failed coup against Chavez in 2002 (a charge the White House denies). Fuel was added last summer when conservative televangelist Pat Robertson â€” a high-profile supporter of President Bush â€” publicly called for Chavez’s assassination. (Robertson has since apologized.) Chavez is a democratically elected President, but his close friendship with Cuba’s Fidel Castro, his own flirtations with autocratic government and his recently declared interest in acquiring nuclear technology have Washington bristling. As a result, the fiery Chavez and his growing number of supporters around the region remain vocally convinced that Bush is out to kill him.
Note this part about F.T.A.A.:
But Bush’s biggest south-of-the-border PR problem is economic. Even before the start of the November 4-5 Summit, devoted to combating poverty and creating jobs, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and other Latin nations banded together to nudge Washington’s Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) proposal off the agenda. The move, which has angered the Bush Administration, reflects growing skepticism in Latin America over the virtues of free-market reforms, which many believe have simply widened the chasm between rich and poor in a region that already displays the world’s worst disparities in wealth.
To be fair, a lot of the economic problems in Latin America are the result of bad decisions and corruption in Latin America going back to the time of the Conquistadors.
The article goes on to say that anti-Bush sentiment has sparked a neo-lefist revival in Latin America (way to go, Chimpy!).
Some on the Right Blogosphere noticed the protests and the fact Cindy Sheehan was there, somewhere–it’s not clear to me if she did much but show up. The rightie Gateway Pundit quotes Mexican President Vincente Fox as rebuking Chavez on F.T.A.A. —
Mexican President Vicente Fox, a Bush ally, countered Chavez by saying a trade accord in the Americas will boost growth and should go ahead even if some countries refuse to join. Only about four or five nations are against it, and their opposition is “ideological,” Fox told reporters.
But Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela are the big guns, economically speaking, aren’t they?
It’s not just Latin Americans crabbing at Bush. He’s also taking potshots from Canada.
Free trade in the Americas would be a powerful antidote for poverty – if everyone played by the rules, Prime Minister Paul Martin said here Friday in a veiled shot at U.S. President George W. Bush.
As the Summit of the Americas got underway in this fortified seaside town, Martin said Canada fully supports the U.S. push for an expanded Free Trade Area of the Americas. But he made a point of raising the simmering softwood lumber fight between the U.S. and Canada, just before a private meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox.
“The fact is that President Fox, myself, President Bush, all of us believe strongly in the free trade of the Americas. But we know that it’s got to be based on rules – and rules that are listened to,” Martin said.
Rules? Bush thinks rules are for the little people.