dodges Chavez questions
By Michael Fox
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — President Bush may have
gotten good at evading questions, but on last week's five-country Latin American
tour, it's becoming more difficult and much more
President George W. Bush once
again dodged questions about hemispheric political divisions and Venezuela's
Hugo Chavez Saturday during a joint press conference held by him and his
Uruguayan counterpart, Tabaré Vasquez, following an hour-long meeting between
the two heads of state at Uruguay's presidential estancia, Anchorena.
"Hugo Chavez suggested that
you are afraid to mention his name," asked a U.S. journalist
yesterday, "so are you? and how much of a threat is he to
States interests in the
Rather than respond or
decline to answer, Bush changed the subject.
"To South America and
Central America to advance a positive
constructive diplomacy that's being conducted by my government on behalf of the
American people," Bush began, "My message to the people in our neighborhood is
that we care about the human condition and that we believe the human condition
can be improved in a variety of ways. One, investment and so the
question is how can we have constructive dialogue with our neighbors as to how
to spread the benefits of investment."
Bush stated that he is also
"reminding people that the US taxpayer is most generous, when it
comes to bilateral aid." According to the president bilateral aid to
Latin America has doubled under his presidency
to $1.6 billion annually, "and most of the money is aimed at social justice
programs, programs like education and health care."
"And so the trip is a
statement of the desire to work together with people in our neighborhood," Bush
continued, "I've been to Central and South America a lot since I've
been the president, because I fully understand that a prosperous neighborhood is
in the interest of the United
States of America. I would call our
diplomacy quiet and effective diplomacy. Diplomacy all aimed at
helping people. Aimed at elevating the human
condition. Aimed at expressing the great compassion of the American
Journalist Maria Jose Pino
from Uruguay Television asked President Bush, "Taking in to account, the
regional context in which we find ourselves, governed by leaders such as
Vasquez, Lula, Kirchner, Hugo Chavez, Morales, and Bachelet, what
differences and similarities do you find among them, and what is your opinion of
Vasquez and Uruguay?"
Bush — who by his answer
appeared to have missed the first half of the question — responded, "the
temptation is to try to get people to talk about their differences. I
want to talk about our commonalities. We share respect for each
other. We respect our countries. We respect our histories
and traditions and we share respect for a government where the people decide
who's in charge. Interestingly enough, we both have gotten rid of
colonial powers in our past and I think it's that heritage that makes
Uruguay and the United States such
"We talk about the need to
invest and grow economies through investment," Bush
continued. "That's common ground that leads to a positive
relationship. We both recognize that education is vital for the
success of our respective countries."
Bush also commented on
Uruguay's status as the
leading exporter of software in South
America. "Often times when you think of a country like
Uruguay, you think of natural resources, you think of fantastic farms, a lot of
cows, lambs, blueberries — which by the way came up today in our
conversation. But I think it is hopeful for both of our countries to
know that a friend is the leading exporter of something that requires the
brain-power of it's citizens, and so we find common ground there as to how to
work together. I would call this meeting very constructive and very
hopeful and very positive, and the reason why is because we've got so much in
common. There's a lot more that unites us than divides us," responded
It is difficult to say
whether Bush's decision to dodge political questions on Hugo Chavez and Latin
America, is based on an attempt to monopolize the debate of North America's aid
to Latin America, or for fear over the security
of the U.S. President in a region which is not necessarily friendly.
Protests have followed Bush
on his first two stops, across Brazil, and on Friday night in Montevideo where thousands
marched against his visit, his foreign policy and US support for the repressive
Uruguayan military dictatorship of the 1970s-1980s. Protests are
planned to greet Bush in Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico, the next
three countries he will be visiting on this week's tour.
President Hugo Chavez began his own tour on Friday night, just across the Rio
Plata from Uruguay, in an event entitled, "For Latin American Unity, Welcome
Commander Chavez, get out imperialism Bush" at the Ferrocarril Oeste stadium in
Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Before tens of thousands,
Chavez called Bush a "political cadaver."
"He (Bush) looks like he's
afraid to say my name," Chavez commented.
"Today they asked him in
Brasilia, in a press conference," said Chavez on
Friday, "I saw it in my hotel, I was watching and a journalist asked
him: Look, they say that you are here to block the advance of Chavez
in South America. He
(Bush) looks like it gives him tachycardia when they say the name
Chavez, because I saw... he lowered his head, stuttered a couple of times and
responded something else; he didn't respond to the question at
all. So he won't dare, but I will, I will dare... and I think he owes
Bush left Uruguay Sunday morning for Colombia, where
he will be meeting with President Alvaro Uribe. Colombia receives the third largest amount of
US military aid of any
country in the world, after Israel and Egypt, ostensibly to fight Narco-trafficking
under Plan Colombia.
Chavez is also continuing on
his counter-Bush tour. He met President Evo Morales in Trinidad, Bolivia yesterday, a region which has
been affected by torrential rains and large floods.