From the front page of CNN.com
March 12, 2007
Mayans to ‘Cleanse’ Bush Site
GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala (CNN) — Mayan Indian leaders have vowed to “spiritually cleanse” an ancient site in Guatemala after U.S. President George W. Bush visits during his seven-day, five-nation tour of Latin America.
Bush’s visit to the ruins at Iximche, a one-time capital of a Mayan group, is part of an effort to show the administration is interested in all its neighbors in the hemisphere.
But many Mayans are angry that Bush is visiting Iximche, founded as the capital of the Kaqchiqueles kingdom before the Spanish conquest in 1524.
Mayan priests say they will purify the sacred archaeological site to rid it of any “bad spirits” after Bush is there.
“That a person like (Bush) with the persecution of our migrant brothers in the United States, with the wars he has provoked is going to walk in our sacred lands is an offense for the Mayan people and their culture,” Juan Tiney, director of a Mayan non-governmental organization with close ties to Mayan religious and political leaders, told The Associated Press.
The president is working to shore up U.S. allies amid the widespread perception that his administration has neglected Latin America since the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
“It’s very important for the people of South America and Central America to know that the United States cares deeply about the human condition, and that much of our aid is aimed at helping people realize their God-given potential,” Bush said Sunday in Bogota, Colombia.
On Monday, Bush was also visiting a farm cooperative to try to argue that the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) is helping improve the lives of the poor.
CAFTA has come under tremendous criticism from some Latin American leaders who say it has been used to benefit only the United States and the wealthy in the countries that signed onto it.
Bush will discuss CAFTA and other issues — including drug trafficking and the battle over U.S. immigration policy — with Guatemalan President Oscar Berger.
Bush arrived in the country Sunday night from Bogota, marking the first visit by a U.S. president to the Colombian capital since Ronald Reagan in 1982.
He was met by a relatively small protest in Bogota, totaling about 1,500 demonstrators who assembled about a mile from the palace, where Bush and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe had lunch. (Watch Bush offer support to Uribe)
About 300 to 350 demonstrators threw rocks and charged a line of about 200 police clad in riot gear. The demonstrators ripped up metal barricades, smashed concrete barriers and used the resulting fragments as projectiles.
After rebuffing repeated charges, police brought in tear gas and water cannon and used them to push the demonstrators into side streets. The protesters smashed the windows of financial institutions as they retreated. (Watch violent clashes in Colombia’s capital)
National police in Colombia says 120 people were arrested.
After Bush’s events in Bogota ended, the White House used a decoy motorcade as an added security measure.
As Bush travels through the region, his main South American foe, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, is taking a tour of his own.
Some are calling it a “shadow” tour of Bush’s. Chavez’s stops have included Uruguay and Colombia. In public statements he has slammed Bush and declared Bush’s political career dead.
Privately, U.S. officials charge that protests over Bush’s visit — which include battles between demonstrators and police in Brazil — are being fomented and financed by Chavez.
Bush began his trip Friday in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he said during a joint appearance with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that the United States doesn’t get “enough credit for trying to help improve people’s lives.”
“My trip is to explain as clearly as I can that our nation is generous and compassionate — that when we see poverty, we care, that when we see illiteracy, we want to do something about it, that when we find there to be a deficiency in health care, we’ll help to the extent we can,” he said.
CNN’s Elaine Quijano and Karl Penhaul contributed to this report.
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