11/04/2005

Thousands protest Bush in Argentina - Yahoo! News

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina (Reuters) - Anti-U.S. demonstrations at the Americas Summit turned violent on Friday as protesters set fire to a bank, looted stores, and battled riot police blocks away from a luxury hotel where U.S. President George W. Bush met with regional leaders

The violence came hours after tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets, shouting "Get out Bush!" in a peaceful protest against the U.S. leader, who is unpopular among many Latin Americans for the
Iraq war and his push for a regional free trade deal.

But in a later march, several hundred protesters shattered storefronts and fought pitched street battles with riot police, who responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

Masked protesters set fire to an Argentine bank branch and an office for Argentine telecommunications company Telefonica, hurling Molotav cocktails before hauling off computers and office furniture.

Police on motorcycles played cat-and-mouse chases with demonstrators, some of them carrying sticks and slingshots.

The two-day meeting of Western Hemisphere leaders was expected to be a showdown over differing views of free trade between the American president and Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

Chavez, the leftist leader who opposes Bush's economic model, vowed to bury the stalled Free Trade Area of the Americas, or FTAA during a speech to protesters earlier in the day.

"Every one of us has brought a shovel, an undertaker's shovel, because here in Mar del Plata is the tomb of FTAA," Chavez told a full stadium hosting an alternative Peoples' Summit organized by anti-free trade activists.

By his side was Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona, who carried the flag of communist Cuba and wore a T-shirt saying "War Criminal." They were joined by Bolivian indigenous leader Evo Morales, front-runner for the December 18 presidential election.

A large Cuban delegation of athletes sent by President
Fidel Castro, who was not invited to the summit, was also popular with the crowd, estimated at 25,000.

Marchers urged the region's leaders to pursue alternatives to the U.S.-backed free-market recipes, which dominated in the region in the 1990s but failed to reduce poverty and inequality.

"We are here to show our proposals and alternatives to build a new dawn in Latin America," said Argentine Nobel Peace Prize winner and author Adolfo Perez Esquivel.
Thousands protest Bush in Argentina - Yahoo! News

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