- The Washington Times - Friday, March 9, 2007

SAO PAULO, Brazil — President Bush yesterday bristled when told the United States has ignored Latin America, responding that people here are ignoring the care and increased U.S. aid his administration is sending to the region.

Mr. Bush also met with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and they promised to make their top trade negotiators try to hammer out an agreement that could restart the Doha round of trade talks.

“We will work together. We will lock our trade ministers in a room, all aimed at advancing this important round,” Mr. Bush said as he and Mr. Lula da Silva talked to reporters after a day of meetings and a tour of an ethanol distribution terminal.

Those meetings ended with an alternative-fuels pact between the two nations.

As part of the agreement, signed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Brazilian counterpart, the United States and Brazil will promote more ethanol use in nations lying between Brazil and the United States. The deal also creates new quality standards for the alternative fuel.

But even as they worked on issues together, the two men could not escape questions about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has made it his mission to try to inflame anti-Bush passions during the president’s trip.

Last night, Mr. Chavez addressed an “anti-imperialist” rally in a soccer stadium in Buenos Aires while Mr. Bush arrived in Montevideo, Uruguay, across the River Plate.

“The U.S. president today is a true political cadaver, and now he does not even smell of sulfur anymore,” Mr. Chavez told a raucous stadium crowd, alluding to Mr. Bush’s remaining time in office.

Mr. Bush and his aides have almost entirely avoided mentioning Mr. Chavez by name in briefings and interviews leading up to this trip. Yesterday, when asked specifically about it, Mr. Bush again avoided talking about the Venezuelan leader.

“My trip is to explain as clearly as I can that our nation is generous and compassionate,” Mr. Bush said. “That when we see poverty, we care. That when we see illiteracy, we want to do something about it. That when we find there to be a deficiency in health care, we’ll help to the extent we can.”

He said the United States is sending a military hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, to Central America to help with medical care, and that the United States trains doctors, nurses and teachers, and educates students from across the region.

He also said Latin America is tied to the United States through the legal and illegal workers who have flocked to the U.S. and who send home billions of dollars in remittances each year.

For his part, Mr. Lula da Silva seemed to be trying to walk a tightrope between the two men, noting through his translator that “all South American governments have arisen from free elections with broad popular participation.”

Mr. Bush said that during his administration, bilateral U.S. aid to Latin American nations has doubled, but Mr. Lula da Silva appeared to challenge the importance of that statistic.

“We actually do not need to be discussing aid to those countries,” he said. “In some countries, over the years, aid money doesn’t always lead to concrete results because you don’t control how it’s spent that well.”

He said the better solution is to work on joint programs, and that the ethanol partnership Mr. Bush and Mr. Lula da Silva forged yesterday is a better solution.

On trade, the two leaders don’t see eye to eye on the specifics of an agreement, but both said they are committed to getting the process going again.

Mr. Lula da Silva pointed to his own trade minister and the U.S. trade representative and said they should get to work.

“I think that we should give them one single order: Come to an agreement as soon as possible,” he said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports

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