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Bush Touts U.S. Aid to Guatemala; Chavez Answers

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Bush Touts U.S. Aid to Guatemala; Chavez Answers

Bush Touts U.S. Aid to Guatemala; Chavez Answers

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

President Bush is in Guatemala; stop four on his tour of Latin America. Guatemala is an impoverished nation. Mr. Bush visited the countryside there to make the point that the U.S. is using its financial resources to help solve the region's problems.

NPR's David Greene is traveling with the president, and he sent us this report.

DAVID GREENE: President Bush has been arguing, for several days now, that his government is reaching out to Latin America with money and support. But he's mostly been saying all this in formal settings, standing next to another president.

Mr. Bush tried a different tack today. He left Guatemala City by helicopter, and landed in the small town of Santa Cruz Balanya. Its 10,000 people are mostly indigenous. The town was totally destroyed by an earthquake in 1976, and was rebuilt with help from the U.S. Mr. Bush was greeted warmly.

(Soundbite of applause)

GREENE: This is a poor country, with millions living in extreme poverty. And Mr. Bush did everything he could to send a message that the United States cares. He stopped at a school, where U.S. military personnel offer medical care and personally handed out hygiene kits.

Later, he moved elsewhere in the Guatemalan countryside, stopping at a vegetable packing station. With the cameras rolling, Mr. Bush himself loaded crates of lettuce.

The facility serves as a farming co-op that helps local indigenous farmers find places to sell their goods. And Wal-Mart is now one of their major buyers. Mr. Bush said free trade policies are helping farmers here.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Free trade is important for a lot of people.

Unidentified Woman (Translator): (Speaking in foreign language)

Pres. BUSH: It's important for our country.

Unidentified Woman: It's a gateway for us.

Pres. BUSH: It's a gateway. Then, it creates jobs in America just like it creates jobs here.

Unidentified Woman: (Speaking in foreign language)

Pres. BUSH: And so we thank you for your wonderful hospitality.

GREENE: But there was a reality check: Mr. Bush is not widely popular here. There are also memories of this country's 36-year civil war, when the U.S., that time, backed the repressive government. So, elsewhere in the country today, Guatemalans took to the streets, telling Mr. Bush to leave here.

Unidentified Man: Bush - (Spanish spoken). Bush - (Spanish spoken)

GREENE: And Mr. Bush has been unable to get Hugo Chavez off his tail. The fiery Venezuelan president keeps finding countries to visit that are near wherever Mr. Bush happens to be.

As Mr. Bush arrived in Guatemala, Chavez was revving up a crowd in Nicaragua, accusing the U.S. president of plotting assassinations in this part of the world.

President HUGO CHAVEZ (Venezuela): (Through translator) The American empire is the firefighter of the conflagration with their well-known, divisive anti-revolutionary policy, reactionary policy, and with their agents infiltrating among all these countries.

GREENE: Chavez, whose nation is rich in petroleum money, announced a new deal to supply Nicaragua with cheaper oil. His message: If Mr. Bush has come south to offer economic aid, Chavez is going to do everything he can to outdo him.

David Greene, NPR News, Guatemala City.

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