Protesters denounce Bush and summit for leaders of Pacific Rim economies

Friday, November 19th 2004, 6:38 am
By: News On 6

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ Police on Friday clashed with rock-throwing protesters demonstrating against the planned presence of President Bush at a weekend summit of 21 Pacific Rim countries that they likened to a rich man's club.

The street clashes market the fourth straight day of confrontations between police and protesters opposed to the two-day annual gathering of the leaders for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, hosted this year by Chile.

Riot police used water cannons and tear gas to break up the protest and detained about 25 people, said Marco Riquleme, leader of the group that organized the unauthorized demonstration.

Thousands of protesters marched through downtown Santiago later Friday in a government-authorized protest far from the summit site. The marchers also expressed outrage at holding the summit in Chile, the presence of Bush and the war in Iraq.

Local media reports estimated as many as 15,000 people joined the government-authorized march. Organizers claimed the number was closer to 30,000. Police wouldn't give an estimate.

The demonstrators at both protests likened the summit to a rich man's club that does nothing for the poor, but the planned arrival of Bush brought out the most anger.

Marchers held up posters saying: ``Bush, you stink,'' and ``Terrorist Bush.'' Some chanted: ``Bush, listen: Chile is not for sale!'' and ``Bush, fascist, thief, murderer!''

``We have seen what APEC means to us: Turning our workers into cheap force for the businesses,'' said labor union activist Saul Villegas.

Maria Ines, a housewife, said: ``My protest is against Bush. No one gave permission to go into Iraq. He thinks he's God!''

At the conclave, Bush will seek more international support to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program, administration officials said.

Of the seven one-on-one meetings with other leaders that Bush plans during the weekend, four of them _ China, Japan, South Korea and Russia _ are U.S. partners in talks with North Korea aimed at making the Korean peninsula nuclear-free.

Three rounds of talks have yielded little progress and Pyongyang refused to attend a fourth round slated for September. The White House hopes to use to the APEC gathering to arrange another meeting for early 2005, a senior White House official said.

Bush also plans to meet with Mexican President Vicente Fox on Sunday, with immigration and cross border drug trafficking likely to be high on the agenda.

On Thursday, the trade and foreign ministers of the 21 Pacific Rim economies promised to push hard for the conclusion of the World Trade Organization's current round of talks. The global trade treaty aims to slash agricultural subsidies and lower tariff barriers in a bid to boost the planet's economy.

The ministers welcomed the revival in July of WTO negotiations that are scheduled to go into high gear next year.

Talks launched three years ago in Doha, Qatar, to create a binding trade treaty for the 147-nation WTO group faltered last year with bickering over agricultural subsidies, but gained ground this year after negotiators managed to create a framework for a new global trade accord.

The APEC declaration backing the WTO talks is important because the collective economic weight of members that face the Pacific Ocean represents a big chunk of the global economy, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick said.

APEC's members include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.