Latin America Spoils Bush's Party
US President George W. Bush received a snubbing both inside and outside the Summit of the Americas that ended Saturday in Mar del Plata, Argentina.
Unable to kick start the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) plan and facing the presence of tens of thousands of Argentineans protesting his presence in their country, the president clearly left the seaside resort empty handed, unable to improve his administration's worsening relations with the region.
Opposition from Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay succeeded in continuing to table the trade scheme after marathon negotiations. Under the FTAA, US corporations would get a free hand in markets throughout the hemisphere but US producers would retain the mechanisms to block imports of products from the Latin American countries.
Washington claims its plan would create jobs in Latin America but Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, the lead voice at the Summit against the FTAA, believes it would virtually re-colonize the continent and enslave its workers. There are a growing number of people who share his concerns and more governments are apparently willing to take a stand against US economic policy for the region.
“The conditions do not exist to attain a hemispheric free trade accord that is balanced and fair with access to markets that are free of subsidies and distorting practices,” said the countries that succeeded in blocking a resurrection of the trade pact.
Outside the official event, the massive march that closed the 3rd Peoples Summit on Friday was headed by Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona and Nobel Peace Prize Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Bolivian presidential candidate Evo Morales and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez the key note speaker.
The popular Venezuelan leader stressed unity amongst Latin American nations. He cited a continuation of the struggle of 19th century liberator Simon Bolivar and championed the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas –known in Spanish as the ALBA- as a regional substitute for the US project, which he called dead and buried.
Security in Mar del Plata was tight, due to the presence of a US president who draws thousands of protestors wherever he visits. Mr. Bush traveled Saturday to Brazil, the second leg of his three nation Latin American tour, before moving on to Panama on Sunday.
While not invited to the Summit of the Americas, Cuba was well represented at the parallel Peoples Summit with a 300-strong delegation headed by Parliament President Ricardo Alarcon.