Protests Erupt as Bush Visits Brazil
President Set to Sign Biofuels Pact
By DEB RIECHMANN, AP
SAO PAULO, Brazil (March 9) – President Bush visited a mega fuel depot for tanker trucks Friday to herald a new agreement with Brazil on ethanol as a way to boost alternative fuels production in the Americas.
Demonstrators upset with Bush’s visit here worry that the president and his biofuels buddy, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, really have visions of an OPEC-like cartel on ethanol.
While Bush’s nemesis in Latin America, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, is using his vast oil wealth to court allies in the region, Bush and Silva were announcing the ethanol agreement with Brazil, where nearly eight in 10 new cars run on fuel made from sugar cane.
The agreement itself was signed Friday morning by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Brazilian counterpart, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe announced.
Riot police fired tear gas and beat some protesters with batons after more than 6,000 people held a largely peaceful march through the financial district of Sao Paulo. About 4,000 agents, including Brazilian troops and FBI and U.S. Secret Service officers, are working to secure Bush’s stay in the city that lasts about 24 hours.
Authorities did not disclose the number of injuries in Thursday’s demonstrations, but Brazilian news media said at least 18 people were hurt and news photographs showed injured people being carried away.
The White House dismisses talk that the ethanol agreement between Bush and Silva is aimed at setting up an “OPEC of Ethanol” cartel led by Washington and Brasilia.
Bush says he wants to work with Brazil, a pioneer in ethanol production for decades, to push the development of alternative fuels in Central America and the Caribbean. He and Silva also want to see standards set in the growing industry to help turn ethanol into an internationally traded commodity.
“It’s not about production-sharing, it’s about encouraging development and encourage the Caribbean and Central American countries to get into the game,” Bush’s national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, said.
In January, Bush called on Congress to require the annual use of 35 billion gallons of ethanol and other alternative fuels such as biodiesel by 2017, a fivefold increase over current requirements. To help meet the goal, the president also is pushing research into making ethanol from material such as wood chips and switchgrass.
One roadblock in the Bush-Silva ethanol talks is a 54-cent tariff the United States has imposed on every gallon of ethanol imported from Brazil. Bush says it’s not up for discussion.
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