- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 15, 2005

BUENOS AIRES — The Summit of the Americas isn’t supposed to take place for seven weeks. But left-wingers already have clashed with police in protests over plans by President Bush to attend, underscoring a security nightmare facing Argentine officials charged with protecting 34 chiefs of state.

More protests are expected this weekend after a melee last week during which police confronted thousands of demonstrators and several policemen suffered minor injuries.

On Friday, about 3,000 protesters pushed toward the Plaza de Mayo, the site of frequent political protests, but were contained by strong police lines.

The protests are expected to intensify as Mr. Bush and 33 other heads of the Western Hemisphere’s democracies prepare to attend the fourth Summit of the Americas on Nov. 4 and 5 in Mar de Plata, Argentina, an Atlantic coastal city about 200 miles from Buenos Aires.

Amid heavy security, leaders are scheduled to address issues such as trade, agriculture and labor.

Presidents Vicente Fox of Mexico, Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela also will attend, but Cuba’s Fidel Castro was not invited.

As officials prepare for street-level demonstrations and any terrorist threats, local newspapers report that a diplomatic flap is brewing over the size of security details to be brought along by Mr. Bush and Mr. Chavez.

Mr. Chavez, who has said the United States is trying to assassinate him, plans to match the size of Mr. Bush’s security team.

Argentine officials estimate that Mr. Bush will bring at least 1,000 agents.

Neither the U.S. Secret Service in Washington, summit officials nor the Venezuelan government responded to interview requests.

Some lawmakers think the vast size of both details could require approval from Argentina’s congress, which has mandated that visiting presidential security agents dress in civil clothes and have no visible weapons.

Summit security falls primarily on the Argentine Chancery. A chancery spokesman declined to discuss security plans, but various press reports suggest a formidable security presence in and around the city of 600,000.

Combat aircraft, two frigates and anti-aircraft artillery batteries reportedly are set for deployment, as is a mobile radar system to be established outside the city limits.

Officials also have brought police forces in surrounding areas and towns such as Dolores and Necochea into a unified command.

“We consider all the coast to be a single political unit for the purpose of establishing a defense plan,” said Leon Arslanian, security minister for the state of Buenos Aires, which includes Mar del Plata.

“We have lots of intelligence working in the area,” Mr. Arslanian told reporters recently.

Many Argentines are against the Iraq war. It is also fashionable here to blame U.S. policies for the nation’s economic collapse in 2001.

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