American President George W. Bush will tour Latin America in March, in an attempt to curb the influence of his Socialist Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez, and to neutralize recent Iranian efforts to improve ties in the region.
Bush's visit crowns months of a US diplomatic offensive aiming to isolate the ongoing Socialist Revolution in Caracas by developing ties with South America's giant, Brazil.
Bush is arriving in Brazil March 8 and his tour ends March 14. The US president is expected to also visit Mexico, Guatemala, Uruguay and Colombia to show agreement following years of divergences in Washington's southern flank.
According to analysts, the ultimate goal is to stop Chavez' plans to turn the Common Market of the South into a Latin American body where political anti-US stances prevail over plain economic integration.
As such, Bush's visit to Uruguay becomes one of the hot spots of his tour. In Montevideo, Washington diplomats are expected to deepen trade ties between both nations, something that could disrupt the Mercosur block that Uruguayans founded with Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay.
Washington wants to strengthen the Brazilian leadership in the region to corner Chavez efforts to export his Bolivarian Revolution. US diplomats see President Lula as a moderate reformist who could take an alternative leadership to the radical moves of the Venezuelan.
In order to counter the Venezuelan oil diplomacy, Washington will be offering an energy deal with Brazil for production and trade of biofuels. Together, the US and Brazil amount to around 70% of the world ethanol production.
Nicholas Burns, the US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, told newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo that Brazil "is the most powerful country in South America." Burns added that his country did not want to depend on oil from "countries such as Iran and Venezuela."
"Energy has become a big diplomatic issue. Energy has tended to distort and expand the power of some countries beyond the power they should probably have," Burns said.
Bush's visit to Latin America, came only one month after the Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Venezuela, Ecuador and Nicaragua. Sponsored by Chavez, Tehran aims to develop closer ties in a region that ranks for its anti-American spirit.
Iran closed energy deals and a strategic partnership in Venezuela but did not succeed in cooperating with other nations.
Argentina, for instance, has a long-running diplomatic conflict with Tehran, as top Iranian officials have been requested by local courts on charges of terrorism after the bombing of Jewish center in Buenos Aires in 1994.
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