From the November 2005 Idaho Observer:

Free trade zone scuttled at recent Summit of the Americas

34-nation conference began with violent protests, ended in uncertainty

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina—The U.S.-led plan to create a "free trade" zone from pole to frozen pole in the western hemisphere made no progress at the Summit of the Americas held at a plush hotel in this resort town. The summit concluded Nov. 6, 2005 without another being scheduled.

This particular summit was supercharged with speculation as to how U.S. President Bush and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez would react to one another. The anticipation was intensified when Chavez led thousands of protestors in a pre-summit rally condemning "U.S. imperialism" and U.S. trade policies. Demonstrators were denouncing the U.S.-led war in Iraq calling President Bush a "fascist" and a "terrorist."

Though protestors did not attempt to breach the security perimeter around the summit site, violence erupted a mile away. Buildings were set on fire and several injuries were reported. Within an hour, CNN reported, all was calm again as night settled on the picturesque seaside town.

President Bush, who refused to comment on the indictment of I. "Scooter" Libby, also said that if he came face-to-face with President Chavez, he "would be polite."

Chavez, described by the U.S. State Department as a destabilizing element in Latin America and a leftist, Marxist dictator whose best friend is Fidel Castro, has been an outspoken critic of the Bush administration.

Chavez has earned the disparagement of the U.S. because he believes the natural resources of Venezuela belong to the people—not foreign corporations—and he has used the resource wealth of his nation to improve the living conditions of his people.

Chavez, after surviving a CIA-backed coup in April, 2004, was reelected by popular vote in July, 2004. Call Chavez what you want, his people love him and gas in Venezuela is reportedly about 12 cents a gallon.

Presidents Bush and Chavez did not meet face-to-face and were seated far apart from one another to minimize the opportunity for their disagreements to interrupt the proceedand truly humanitarian offers because politics were more important than human suffering and human dignity.

At least five of the 34 countries were openly opposed the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Led by President Chavez, the Mercosur Trade Bloc (Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) dissented. As net exporters of foodstuffs, they saw no advantage competing with subsidized American exports.

President Chavez’ personal hero is Simon Bolivar—the soldier who united South Americans to throw off Portuguese rule in the early-1800s.

The mood of the summit was affected by President Bush’s plummeting approval rating in the U.S. It was as if there was little reason to trust U.S. intentions with regard to free trade when Americans do not trust their own president.

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