Well, actually, El President W is flying down to Sao Paulo, the largest and most industrialized city in Brazil. From there he goes to Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico.
It's interesting that he is staying away from those naughty countries that have installed progressive and /or leftist governments: Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Venezuela.
Why did he choose the ones he did?
In the case of Brazil, Bush hopes to convince President Lulu da Silva that Brazil and the U.S. should work on biofuel research. Lulu is more interested in gaining access to the U.S. for their agricultural products and their bio-fuel made from the optimum crop: sugar cane.
Ethanol can be made through the fermentation of many natural substances, but sugar cane offers advantages over others, like corn. For each unit of energy expended to turn cane into ethanol, 8.3 times as much energy is created, compared with a maximum of 1.3 times for corn, according to scientists at the Center for Sugarcane Technology here and other Brazilian research institutes. (New York Times)
But Brazilian officials and business executives say the ethanol industry would develop even faster if the United States did not levy a tax of 54 cents a gallon on all imports of Brazilian cane-based ethanol. (New York Times)
The Bush administration is eager to protect U.S. farmers of corn from outside sources of ethanol, e.g. Brazil -- despite the fact that corn is a far less efficient source of alcohol.
Because of NAFTA -- we are able to flood Mexico with cheap corn (often genetically engineered, patented, with seed lifetimes often set for one year. This has driven ordinary Mexican farmers into poverty, forcing them to sell their farms --- and often to trek northward to the Land of Plenty, the good old USA.
The US is interested in free trade if it benefits our corporations and workers. However, free trade should be "FAIR" trade even more than "FREE" trade. We want our cake and we want to eat it too. This is the history of the American economic empire
Bush chose Uruguay because it is a very small country that is having some difficulty entering into the developing South American Common Market. Despite the fact that it elected a basically progressive government several years ago --- it feels as though it must reach out to Washington. This could easily be a mistake for Uruguay since the U.S. has a history of misusing Latin American countries.
As for Colombia, its President Uribe is a darling of the administration since it cooperates with us, keeps populist movements suppressed, and seems to be conducting a war on drugs---how sincere the Colombians are is a matter of opinion.
Guatemala is being repaid fro leading the effort to keep Bush's arch nemesis off the UN Security Council.
Mexico is to some extent a lap dog of the U.S. Its president Calderon may have acquired his position through illegal means, much of them supported by Bush. He embraces Washington's craving for free trade despite evidence that the bulk of his people are worse off kowtowing to D.C.
So, Bush is tip-toeing through Latin American making sure he lands on a supportive stone as he crosses a river of countries turbulent with desires to follow their own vision and put their ordinary people first --- rather than dear old Uncle Sam.
It takes a great President to have the nerve to visit a truly representative collection of Latin nations and be welcomed and listened to. Bush lacks the greatness, the intelligence and just plain "class" to deceive the bulk of South Americans, who in a recent poll have an 85% negative opinion of El Commandate Bush. I feel certain his performance on this ill-fated and silly junket will only increase his negative ratings.