Bush's tour to Guatemala

But his arch-nemesis, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, was again close by, in neighbouring Nicaragua, blasting "the North American empire" and its "chief" for alleged attempts to stomp out revolutionary movements in Latin America.


Several key streets in the centre of the Guatemalan capital and a highway leading to an air force base where the US presidential plane landed were closed to traffic as part of massive security measures introduced by the Guatemalan government.

Later, Mr Bush will visit a Mayan agricultural cooperative in the town of Chirijuyu, which specialises in growing vegetables for export to the United States, and meet with Mr Berger.

The US president said on Saturday that the United States must help people like members of the Guatemalan cooperative build a better life for their families.

"By doing so, we will increase living standards for all our citizens, strengthen democracy in our hemisphere, and advance the cause of peace," he said in his weekly radio address.

Mr Berger, officials said, was likely to ask Bush to impose a temporary moratorium on deportations of Guatemalans living in the United States illegally as the Bush administration and Congress try to work out a more lasting solution to the illegal immigration problem.


Meanwhile, demonstrators protested Mr Bush's visit to Guatemala in front of the US Embassy in Guatemala City.

More than 100 Mayan Indian were holding signs reading: "No more blood for oil."

The group staged the demonstration in the municipality of Tecpan, about 90 kilometres from the capital Guatemala City where Bush arrived from Colombia as part of his five-nation Latin American tour.

The Mayans are angry that Bush will be visiting the sacred Iximche archaeological site.

After the US leader leaves, Mayan priests plan a spiritual cleansing to get rid of the "evil spirits" they believe Bush will bring.

"He's someone who has financed the genocide of many parts of the works, like in the Middle East," protester Jorge Morales said.

Iximche, 50 kilometres west of Guatemala City, was founded as the capital of the Kaqchiqueles kingdom before the Spanish conquest in 1524.

Bush's visit to Colombia

In Colombia, Bush expressed his full support for the turmoil-torn country, which he called "a strategic partner of the United States".

But just 1.5km from the presidential palace where Bush held talks with conservative Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, clashes left four police and two protesters injured, after 5,000 demonstrators marched in the capital to protest US policies, newswire agency AFP reports.

Police said 120 demonstrators were arrested.

The US president strongly defended a $US700 million ($A896 million) a year aid program for Colombia destined to support efforts to combat drug trafficking and a decades-old insurgency.

He also stressed he would press for congressional approval of a bilateral free trade agreement.

The protests that also greeted Mr Bush in Brazil and Uruguay reflected widespread anti-US sentiment in the region, where several leftist leaders opposed to his policies have been elected or re-elected in recent years.

Mr Bush admitted during his trip there were perceptions the United States had turned its back on Latin America, but insisted that was not the case, and stressed his tour meant to demonstrate US goodwill toward the region.

From Guatemala, Bush will travel to Mexico, the last leg of his five-nation tour.

Bush and Chavez

Venezuela's President Chavez, determined to protect recent leftist gains in Latin America, showed up in Nicaragua, where he accused Washington of trying to destabilise governments trying to assert their independence from the United States.

"The North American empire is trying to snuff out the flame of liberty," declared the Venezuelan president upon his arrival in Managua.

"It uses its reactionary politics of interference, invasions, assassinations and genocide and is trying to foment coups d'etat."

Mr Chavez has shadowed Mr Bush practically since the beginning of his trip.

When President Bush was in Uruguay on Friday, Mr Chavez held a massive anti-American rally in neighbouring Argentina.

When Mr Bush flew to Colombia on Sunday, the Venezuelan leader popped up in Bolivia, delivering a series of new anti-American tirades.

Now in Managua, Venezuelan President Chavez insisted Washington will not be able to stem the revolutionary tide because "the empire is weakening and nearing its twilight".

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