United States president George Bush arrived late Thursday to São Paulo for a 24-hour visit to Brazil – the first leg of his Latinamerican trip – amidst serious street protests with 22 people injured among protesters, police and reporters and scores arrested.
Surrounded by a huge security operation President Bush and his delegation were whisked from Guarulhos airport – under military control – to the hotel in downtown São Paulo where today he will be meeting his Brazilian counterpart Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
A caravan of 40 vehicles with members of the Secret Service and Brazilian security forces escorted the armored presidential limousines specially flown in from the United States for the occasion.
Hours before at Avenida Paulista, São Paulo's main avenue, riot police fired tear gas at protesters and beat them with batons after more than 6,000 people held a largely peaceful march, sending hundreds of demonstrators fleeing and ducking into businesses to avoid the gas.
Authorities did not immediately report any injuries, but Brazilian media said at least 22 people were hurt after marching two miles through the financial heart of South America's largest city.
Presidents Bush and Lula agenda for early morning Friday includes biofuels, particularly ethanol, of which the two countries are responsible for 70% of the world's production. Both countries are intent in a strategic alliance to promote alternative fuels and produce ethanol in African and Latinamerican countries.
Another controversial issue is global trade and the World Trade Organization Doha Round negotiations which remain stalled on the issue mainly of farm subsidies and market access.
Meeting with German president Horst Kí¶hler in Brasília on Thursday Lula criticized subsidies granted to US farmers and described them as "completely contrary and harmful for free trade".
The security operation to protect President Bush, the largest ever organized by Brazil involved 4.0000 members from the Armed Forces and police, an estimated 250 US Secret Service plus all the air and land logistics.
From Brazil late Friday President Bush and the whole display of security will be flying to Uruguay for the second leg of the Latinamerican trip that also includes Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.
Huge protest demonstrations have been planned or are on course in all cities to be visited by President Bush who is particularly unpopular in the region because of the Iraq war, the US "imperialist attitude" and the soaring economic gap between rich and poor countries.
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