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Give U.S. credit for Latin America aid, Bush says

Published March 8, 2007


WASHINGTON - President Bush, battling anti-America sentiment in Central and South America, said Wednesday the United States doesn't get much credit for its generosity in the region.

Bush made the comment a day before a weeklong trip to Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico to emphasize U.S. programs of health care, housing aid and job creation for the poor.

"The American taxpayer has been very generous about providing aid in our neighborhood, and most of that aid is social justice money - in other words, it's money for education and health," Bush said in an interview with CNN En Espanol. Since he took office, U.S. aid to Latin America has gone from $800-million to $1.6-billion, the president said.

"And yet we don't get much credit for it," he said.

Bush's trip is widely seen as an effort to counter the growing influence of leftist President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who has used the resources of his oil-rich country to try to win allies in a coalition against Washington. Chavez, who has called Bush the devil, has urged protests during Bush's visit to the region.

Asked if his trip was intended to counter Chavez's influence, Bush said, "The trip is to remind people that we care. I do worry about the fact that some say, 'Well, the United States hasn't paid enough attention to us.' ...And when, in fact, the record has been a strong record."

U.S. policy in Latin America has been built around free-trade agreements, antinarcotic programs and the war against terrorism. Bush defended free trade against criticism that it is one-sided and favors the United States.

[Last modified March 8, 2007, 01:55:13]

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