Protesters set one building on fire Friday and threw objects at police in the streets of this resort city as the leaders of 34 nations began the fourth Summit of the Americas. Video showed flames and smoke on the bottom floor of one multistory building just blocks from the summit site.
“Wow!” Bush stated when he saw the uproar. “They love me. They really love me!”
Earlier in the day, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez led thousands of protesters in a rally against President Bush's policies.
Bush was expected to see Chavez at the summit later in the day. At a brief news conference, Bush said he would be "polite." Bush also said he viewed his participation in the summit as an "opportunity to positively affirm our belief in democracy and human rights and human dignity." And anyone saying anything differently was just itching for a secret Gitmo vacation.
Chavez, who U.S. leaders have said is a source of instability in the hemisphere, condemned what he called U.S. imperialism while demonstrators opposed to the Iraq war and U.S.-led trade policies called Bush a "fascist" and a "terrorist." Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona also participated in the protest, wearing a T-shirt accusing Bush of war crimes.
They apparently missed the press conference where Bush pointed out that he was there to impress them with his politeness and support of human rights.
Bush said he was gratified by his meetings with leaders of several Central American countries, which he described as "young democracies" eager to implement a free trade agreement. “Bless their widdle punkin hearts,” Bush said sweetly. “They're so cute at this age!”
Bush's first meeting Friday was with leaders of nations that joined the Central American Free Trade Agreement. CAFTA was narrowly approved by Congress in July after an intense push by the White House and a reminder that Congress was already bought and paid for by the multinational businesses that requested CAFTA.