By Ron Hutcheson and Pablo Bachelet
(Speaking before the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce prior to his South American trip)
WASHINGTON - President Bush acknowledged Monday that U.S.-backed economic policies and free-trade agreements have failed to lift millions of Latin Americans from poverty.
"The fact is that tens of millions of our brothers and sisters to the south have seen little improvement in their daily lives, and this has led some to question the value of democracy," he told members of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "The working poor of Latin America need change, and the United States of America is committed to that change."
Chavez, a fiery leftist who recently called Bush the "king of liars," also will be on the road. He'll host an anti-Bush rally in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Friday in advance of Bush's stop in neighboring Uruguay.
- Bush announced a series of relatively modest efforts to help the poor, including a plan to send U.S. military medical teams to the region.
- In Mexico, Bush will meet President Felipe Calderon, in Merida, in the Yucatan Peninsula, a site picked to avoid the threat of massive protests in Mexico City.
- In Brazil, Bush is expected to announce a joint effort to promote the production of ethanol made from sugar cane, though some corn-based ethanol producers in the United States worry that the initiative could hurt their business.
- Bush has invited Lula to join him later this month at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.
- "The objectives of this trip are not to unveil a grandiose vision for the hemisphere," Bush would try to "present another option" to Chavez and show "the softer, gentler side of the Bush administration."
- he'll take time out to tour a national park in Uruguay and
- visit Mayan ruins in Guatemala and Mexico.
- He'll also meet with poor children in Brazil,
- hold a roundtable discussion with Colombians of African descent and
- visit an agricultural cooperative in Guatemala.