Lula urges Bush to respect status
of all Latin American countries

Deutsche Presse-Agentur


SAO PAULO, Brazil Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva called upon his US counterpart George W Bush on Friday in Sao Paulo to cooperate in Latin America's social development while respecting the 'political decisions of each state.'


Without directly mentioning Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Lula said relations between Brazil and the US will be stronger insofar as they 'respect each other, each respects the sovereign political decisions of each state and they can build projects that may help third countries to get out of poverty.'


The meeting took place amidst street protests against Bush that brought demonstrators within 20 metres of the US delegation - a surge that police and military had to hustle to keep at bay.


At the top of the Bush-Lula meeting is an agreement to cooperate on production and marketing of the alternative fuel ethanol among the world's two top producers.


In a speech following a meeting with Bush, Lula stressed the US president arrived in South America at 'an exceptional time' for the region, with past dictatorships 'a painful memory.'


'All governments result from free elections with broad popular participation, all are committed to programmes to put an end to social injustice,' the leftist Lula said.


The Brazilian president further defended the integration of South American countries, and stressed that that process 'is taking place among independent nations.'


Several analysts interpreted Lula's comments as an answer to Bush's alleged wish to enlist Brazil's help to stem Chavez's growing political influence in Latin America.


Bush did not mention Chavez in his speech, and even ignored a question about the Venezuelan president in a press conference.


Instead, Bush rejected claims that his government turned its back on Latin America, and stressed that the United States does not get enough credit for the 1.6 billion dollars in aid it gives the region each year.


'Part of the message of my trip ... is to say that the American people care deeply about social justice,' Bush noted.


However, he stressed that 'the most effective anti-poverty programme is trade' and said that the US and Brazil need to work together to end deadlock in the Doha Round of talks at the World Trade Organization (WTO).


Following the press conference, Bush left the Hilton Hotel in Sao Paulo to visit the non-governmental organization Meninos do Morumbi, which helps around 3,000 poor children and teenagers in Sao Paulo.


Bush arrived late Thursday in Brazil, the first leg of a Latin American tour that is also set to take him to Uruguay (later Friday), Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.