Protecting Bush in Bogota
SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Security on a presidential trip is always tight even when there aren't riots in the street. This one's certainly no exception.
As we arrived at President Bush's hotel here for a Joint Press Availability with his Brazilian counterpart today, at least three helicopters carrying armed men hovered eerily still in the air not far off the ground. More than 4,000 security officers are involved in closing down roads, guarding motorcades and inspecting people and bags that get close to the president, and according to Brazilian reports.
As it does anywhere the president goes, that produces a certain amount of local resentment. Sao Paulo is a massive, sprawling megalopolis of 18 million people, the third, fourth or fifth largest metropolitan area in the world, depending on whose numbers you trust. Traffic can already be nightmarish in the best of circumstances. In situations like this, Bush will sometimes fly by helicopter to avoid a motorcade that requires shutting highways but his team opted not to here, leaving him to make trips by car that take as long as an hour even with police escort.
Security will no doubt grow even tighter as the trip progresses. The diciest stop likely will be Bogota, the Colombian capital where no president has dared set foot since Ronald Reagan in 1982. Bush has visited Cartegena, but his staff decided to go to Bogota this time to showcase improvements in security in a country ripped by decades of war and narco-trafficking.
But they're not so confident that they will let the president actually spend the night. Bush will be on the ground only for five or six hours and will remain cloistered behind a powerful security wall. Other than a stop at the U.S. Embassy, he will spend his entire time inside the Casa de Narino, the Colombian presidential residence named after one of the leaders of the independence from Spain.
Reports from Bogota say as many as 21,000 security personnel will be involved in keeping Bush safe while in Colombia -- surely, a coincidence that it's the same number as the president's so-called surge to Iraq. According to news accounts, Colombia's police chief said authorities had uncovered and disrupted plans by leftist rebels for terrorist acts during Bush's visit.
It's hard to know how seriously to take such statements. The last time Bush visited Colombia, a four-hour stop in Cartagena in November 2004, the Colombians said they discovered an assassination plot against the president by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the Marxist rebel group known by its Spanish initials, FARC.
March 9, 2007; 1:24 PM ET
Bush in Latin America, March 2007
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