South America protests Bush

Thousands march in Montevideo
Thousands of people protested in the streets of Montevideo, Uruguay on the evening of March 9, just before Bush’s arrival in the country. A march called by Uruguay’s only labor federation, the Inter-Union Workers Plenary-National Workers Convention (PIT-CNT), drew some 10,000 people. A second march, organized by the Anti-imperialist Coordinating Committee, was smaller and more radical, with some of the estimated 1,200 participants wearing ski-masks, burning effigies of Bush and Uruguay’s socialist president Tabare Vazquez, and spraypainting or vandalizing McDonald’s restaurants, banks and other businesses; 16 people were arrested and accused of vandalism. (DPA, March 9; El Universal, Montevideo, March 10; Terra/Reuters, March 10; La Haine/Fogoneros report March 9 on Uruguay Indymedia)

On March 6, nearly 100 people began marching on foot from Montevideo to the city of Colonia, where Vazquez was to hold work meetings with Bush on March 10. The marchers reached Colonia on March 9 and held a protest there before returning to Montevideo for the PIT-CNT mobilization. (CPN Radio , March 6) Another protest on March 10 drew about 100 people as Bush was attending a reception in the US ambassador’s residence. (El Universal, March 10)

Chavez does Argentina, Bolivia
In neighboring Argentina, dozens of people protested Bush’s visit to Uruguay with a demonstration at the Uruguayan embassy in Buenos Aires. Demonstrators burned a US flag and chanted slogans against Bush. Meanwhile, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez Frias arrived in Argentina on the night of March 8, where he met with President Nestor Kirchner. On March 9 Chavez led an “anti-imperialist and anti-Bush” rally attended by 20,000 to 30,000 people at a Buenos Aires soccer stadium. (AFP, March 9; El Dia, La Plata, March 10; La Nacion, Buenos Aires, March 10) Chavez arrived in Bolivia on March 10 to meet with President Evo Morales and distribute humanitarian aid to Bolivians affected by recent flooding. (EFE, March 10)

Tear gas in Bogota

Bush arrived in Bogota, Colombia on March 11 for a six-hour visit, under the protection of a massive show of force by some 22,000 Colombian soldiers. At least 2,000 people protested Bush with a demonstration near the presidential palace in the center of Bogota, where Bush was meeting with President Alvaro Uribe Velez. Police used tear gas in an effort to disperse the demonstrators; the Metropolitan Police reported 35 arrests. Some damages were reported to banks, restaurants and other buildings. (Reuters, March 11) Equipo Nizkor, an international human rights group, provided a “partial and provisional” list of the names of 83 people arrested during the protests. As of 5 PM, the organization confirmed that 120 people, including 25 minors, were being detained at a Judicial Police Unit (UPJ) in Bogota. Another five minors were released. Among those detained are three photographers from the independent media. An unknown number of people are reportedly being detained at seven police stations, but lawyers have not been allowed in to see the detainees. (Equipo Nizkor, March 11) A report from Spanish news agency EFE on the website of the Bogota daily El Tiempo said 1,500 people participated in the protest, and 127 people were arrested. (EFE, March 11)

On March 7, more than 20,000 people demonstrated in Bogota to protest Bush’s scheduled visit. Protesters were also protesting the government’s attempts to cover up close relationships between rightwing paramilitary groups and politicians and government officials, and demanding guarantees for the right to freely express opposition. One march was called by the Alternative Democratic Pole, a leftist coalition party, along with the Unitary Workers Federation (CUT). CUT president Carlos Rodriguez Diaz said the goal of the march was to reject the Free Trade Treaty (TLC) signed between the US and Colombian governments. In another march, police used tear gas and water cannons against university students. Marches were also held in other cities, including in Barrancabermeja, Santander department. (Colombia Indymedia, undated; El Heraldo, Barranquilla, March 8 from AP; Prensa Latina, March 7; Agencia Prensa Rural, March 8)

Elsewhere in Colombia
Equipo Nizkor also reported that anti-Bush protesters have blocked the Panamerican highway in Cauca department, and the Simon Bolivar international bridge that leads to Venezuela in the eastern Colombian city of Cucuta. (Equipo Nizkor, March 11)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 11

See our last posts on Argentina, Colombia, Bolivia, Uruguay and Bush’s Latin America tour.