President Bush joined Latin-American leaders Friday for talks about drug trafficking, foreign debt and political strife and hailed "the sweep of democracy through the hemisphere."
Even before Bush's arrival from Washington for a two-day celebration of Costa Rica's 100 years of democracy, Panama's military government was sniping at the United States and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega was castigating Bush for refusing to meet privately with him.Arriving ahead of Bush, Ortega told reporters he hoped the meeting of 18 hemispheric leaders will be the first step toward talks between North and South America.
"With a North-South dialogue, without confronting the problems of the economy, commerce and the rights of nations to live in peace, democracy is at risk throughout Central America," Ortega said.
Security was tight as presidents and prime ministers arrived under cloudy skies. Downtown San Jose was sealed off and patrolled by 4,000 policemen, and the U.S. Secret Service supervised installation of a 2-inch-thick, 75-foot-long sheet of bulletproof glass in front of the National Museum for Saturday's inauguration of Democracy Plaza.
A Costa Rican security officer said the 4.5-ton security shield was mostly to protect Bush and President Virgilio Barco of Colombia, who has been marked for death by drug cartel leaders.
Panamanian leader Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega wasn't invited to the summit. But in advertisements placed in San Jose's newspapers, provisional Panamanian President Francisco Ramirez told the leaders that democracy in Panama couldn't be considered without discussing U.S. economic and political pressure.
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said all 18 popularly elected hemispheric leaders "will be capable of sitting down to discuss a common agenda" even though Bush refuses to negotiate directly with Ortega.
Costa Rica "is no longer one of the few lonely democracies" in the Western Hemisphere, Bush said in his departure statement. "Indeed today there are only a few lonely holdouts against the sweep of democracy through the hemisphere."
Arias implicitly equated Ortega and Bush's status when he explained why he had not invited leaders of Chile, Panama, Cuba or Haiti. He referred to "those chosen by the majority will of their people." *****
2nd abortion veto
President Bush vetoed Friday a $4 billion bill for the District of Columbia that would have allowed local funds to be used to pay for abortions. "I informed Congress earlier that I would veto this bill if it contained funds to pay for abortion," Bush said in a statement handed to reporters as Air Force One landed in Costa Rica.
It was Bush's second veto of abortion-related legislation in the last week. On Saturday, Bush vetoed the $156.7 billion spending bill for the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Education because that bill allowed for the use of federal money to pay for abortions of victims of rape and incest.