On the Plane

Lula Lightens Things Up

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay -- So the White House staff and reporters on the trip are all still buzzing about yesterday's mini-news conference featuring President Bush and Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The two emerged from private talks to face journalists for a brief question-and-answer session at the Hilton Sao Paulo Morumbi in Brazil, where Bush was staying. The U.S. president appeared a bit cranky as they walked in. They were 45 minutes behind schedule, a rare occurrence in Bush world that usually leaves the ultra-punctual president irritated. Lula is the kind of leader who likes to filibuster a bit.

But Bush likes Lula, according to aides, and the Brazilian soon lightened things up. A Brazilian reporter asked about the long-stalled Doha round of trade talks. Lula expounded for a bit and expressed confidence that progress would be made toward a resolution. No one was quite prepared for the colorful way he would express that confidence.

"We're moving on solid ground to find a chance for the so-called G-point to come to an agreement," Lula said. "G-point" is how the interpreter translated the phrase into English. Evidently, the Brazilians heard a slightly different variation that has nothing to do with, say, the G-8, because they all started to titter. Even Bush cracked a smile.

By  |  March 10, 2007; 6:52 AM ET  | Trip:  Bush in Latin America, March 2007
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South Americans have never witnessed a sadder, more ignorant, more violent, and more confused US President. I just hope he has a nice time handing out our hard earned tax dollars to the fascist organized-crime families the CIA has directed his way.

Posted by: Klem | March 10, 2007 7:47 AM

Great blog, Peter. I never knew that the way to deal with a swarmiing mob was to stand still. I was wondering if you could talk a little about what how the South Americans view this trip. It's clear that Bush is wildly unpopular, but are they questioning his motives/the timing, are they critical but open to conciliation, or are they just paying him lip service because he is POTUS?

Posted by: simian77 | March 10, 2007 10:29 AM

President Lula is by far the most reasonable and smart guy among those new leftist leaders from South America.

Chavez is a dictator-to-be, and he always says the wrong things in the wrong places, using the wrong words. He doesn't know what diplomacy means. You cannot walk around following the paths designed by the octogenarian dictator Fidel Castro...

Nestor Kirchner and Tabare Vasquez (from Argentina and Uruguay) are doing well, as they understand the role of interacting with other countries and leadres, no matter their political believes.

Evo Morales (Bolivia) wants to follow Chavez's steps, and that is not the best thing to do if you want to suceed as President in a poor Country, like his.

So, among them Lula shines as a smart and practical leader, who knows better than any other of these guys the importance of commerce without leaving his moral convictions and his ecological concerns.

He's fighting against poverty seriously (during his tenure the percentage of poverty has dropped 30%), not only with rethorics as Chavez does.

And given the size and population of Brazil, Lula knows the role that this country can play in the world economy. And he knows how to handle that...

Posted by: Vladdo Zerolf | March 10, 2007 12:04 PM

What I wonder is how can Bush accept Dick Cheney's resignation while he's away on this trip? Word is that Cheney will resign in the next couple of weeks. Shouldn't Bush be lining up his replacement, working Congress to make sure the replacement gets confirmed, and putting together the spin surrounding the resignation?

Posted by: Cynthia Papermaster | March 10, 2007 12:07 PM

Bogota is ready for the arrival of the hated US president. The city has been locked down since Friday. Attack helicopters are overflying the area day and night. Twenty-two thousand heavily armed troops with tanks and APCs are visibly patrolling the streets and highways, stationed at intervals and strolling everywhere.

Someone above mentioned organized-crime families. That's an apt description for the government in this country, laughingly referred to as a democracy.

Not only is Bush's claim to have doubled aid since 2001 essentially a lie, since the figure is virtually identical to that of 2000 and scheduled to be reduced in the coming year, but a great portion of it is military aid to support those very crime families that rule Colombia under President Uribe.

Bush and Uribe are birds of a feather, i.e. vultures.

Posted by: Sam | March 10, 2007 1:38 PM

A recent series of explosive revelations of Colombian government collusion with paramilitary thugs ought to put a damper on the occasion.

On November 9, Colombia's Supreme Court issued warrants for the arrest of three Uribe allies in Congress for their ties to Colombia's murderous right-wing paramilitary group.

The paras have grown increasingly powerful over the past decade, dominating the drug trade, even as they have become beneficiaries of the so-called Peace and Justice Law, which last year granted amnesty to some 32,000 paras in exchange for their disarmament.

Then, on February 15, five more senior senators were arrested for paramilitary ties, including Senator Álvaro Araújo, the brother of Uribe's Foreign Minister, María Consuelo, provoking her resignation February 19. A warrant for the capture of their father, Álvaro Araújo Noguera, was issued March 2; meanwhile, former security and intelligence head Jorge Noguera, a campaign chief for Uribe in 2002, was arrested for arranging the assassination of union leaders and academics by paramilitaries.

The unraveling confirms what has long been an open secret: The Colombian government is rife with paramilitary influence. "What we are discovering here is not just a series of meetings between politicians and criminals," Senator Gustavo Petro of the leftist Polo Democrático told Congress November 30. "What we are discovering, before the eyes of all citizens, is the building of a mafioso regime in Colombia."

The Bush Administration has been largely mute about the mounting parapolitica scandal but the upheaval in Colombia may become impossible to ignore.

"When it comes to Colombia," Democratic Congressman Jim McGovern says, "the Bush Administration says two things: One, we're fighting terrorists, and two, we're protecting our kids from drugs. Facts don't matter. And anyone who disagrees is 'soft on terror.'"

The events of 2006 alone make an overwhelming case for rethinking aid to Colombia. A low point came last fall, in a scandal that spoke volumes about what Uribe's US-funded "democratic security" state has wrought. After a spate of attempted--and seemingly coordinated--terrorist attacks in the weeks surrounding Uribe's re-inauguration last summer, the daily El Tiempo broke the story: Of seven bombs discovered by the military, "at least four" were planted by hired hands of the very officers who were later credited with deactivating them. This included a July 31 attack that injured nineteen soldiers and killed a civilian.
In January Col. Hernán Mejía, one of the most decorated officers, was revealed to have collaborated with the notorious AUC leader "Jorge 40" in staging fake guerrilla slaughters.

As Uribe's allies become indistinguishable from the paramilitary mafias that dominate Colombia's conflict, his legacy will be inextricable from a military's whose actions last summer seem all too logical--and consistent--in a society governed by a war too profitable to end.

Posted by: Sal | March 10, 2007 1:55 PM

Peter -- Please take an opportunity to ask the President: how many in a brazillion?

Posted by: TeddySanFran | March 10, 2007 9:07 PM

I still say that Bubble Boy should have just flown to Dallas and checked into the Hilton. He is the equivalent of Ozzie Nelson in that he lives in a fantasy world where there is no bad news, everybody has money, nothing smells, people jump when you ask them to get you something, . . .--yeah, as I said, just like you're staying in a Hilton.

Posted by: mikeasr | March 10, 2007 11:51 PM

This is GREAT!!!! Peter!!!. This is what I call a Political BLOG!!!
Great Job!!

Posted by: Guddu | March 11, 2007 12:50 AM

Reading this morning the "best" US newspapers, regarding their analysis about president Bush political trip to Latin America this week, a deep deception I have felt.
The manifestations, riot and protests that all over the continent have been made against Bush and his administration, thanks to NYT has been endorsed to "American people"..! .

The "anti american" crusade that emphasizes The New York Time is simply a crude manipulation: The press attach Bush failure to American people will. I paid a lot attention and I did not see any "anti american" sentiment. Fortunately the people from south of the continent, like most of Americans , do not exert the same ""philosophy"" that ironic does the US's press: lop dog less to be a really watchdog...!

Posted by: Huck Finn | March 11, 2007 8:33 AM

Bush is "cranky" becase of the meetings running late? Hello? Excuse me? How about the war in Iraq? Have you noticed Mr. President, the American publlic is a tat bit "cranky" too.

Posted by: Ken McGee | March 11, 2007 9:13 AM



Posted by: JIM | March 11, 2007 9:15 AM

Nice to see at least one reporter achknowledging the Bush bubble and the fact that unscheduled things happen outside it. How about more detail on the types and ages of foodstuffs being thrown during the demonstrations?

Posted by: H5N1 | March 11, 2007 11:07 AM

On the 'front page,' President Lula's name is spelled 'LuLu.'

One could make a long commentary via that gaffe and what it may indicate about norteamericanos' understanding and knowledge about even principal figures on the South American stage.

Posted by: Foxessa Hart | March 11, 2007 11:09 AM

The comment above about Mr. Chavez being a 'dictator to be' is typical of the that most Americans have of him, based on the usual innuendos and lies that are repeated in the mainstream US media. My wife and I joined a delegation of Americans that went to Venezuela to observe the presidential elections last December. I have never seen anything like the level of participation and enthusuiasm that the Venezuelan people exhibited for their democratic process. Our interviews with people from all walks of life showed me that Venezuela is in no danger of being manipulated by anyone in power now that they have had a taste of what it means to have a true participatory democracy.
The so called 'crackdown on the freedom of the press' in Venezuela came only after the private media fomented the attempted overthrow of the government and helped bring about the shutdown of the economy by the business sector in an attempt to force Chavez from power. All of this with the support and funding of the U.S. Government.
No wonder that Bush is reviled everywhere he goes. The American people are the only ones that are ignorant of the facts about U.S. actions in Latin America.

Posted by: David Vohs | March 11, 2007 11:12 AM

Chavez has not really done anything bad to the US except criticize Bush. So what is wrong with that? Bush has been calling Chavez all sorts of names since he took office, in fact, Bush's administration is rumored to have encouraged the coup against Chavez. These Latin American countries were close allies before, have tried free market free trade, have given the US access to their markets. They have had dictators supported by America most famous was Pinochet of Chile. Bush does not Chavez becauce chavez does not kowtow to him. We Americans should grow up and realize that not all our policies or pronouncements are good. Let's be aware that the days when the US could dictate to any developing country is over.

Posted by: M. Stratas | March 11, 2007 11:34 AM

M.Stratas, I couldn't agree more. I have to laugh when I read, in virtually all American newspapers, the phrase"the anti-american Hugo Chavez". Pathetic. Evidently, being anti-american means being concerned with the poor of your country and wanting some oil profits to better your citizen's lives. He is not shutting out multinational corporations. He simply wants to renegotiate contracts so more money can come back to the citizens of Venezuala. Is that so unreasonable?

Posted by: ellenhopkins | March 11, 2007 3:27 PM

I think Lula is a good leader .

Posted by: Fernando Augusto Pacheco | March 12, 2007 7:03 AM

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