Mexican Summit

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(HOST) As President Bush hosts a summit meeting with the presidents of Mexico and Canada, commentator Bill Seamans reflects on some of the issues that are likely to be discussed.

(SEAMANS) It’s been said that President Bush likes to hold summit meetings at his ranch because he believes the informal and relaxed atmosphere helps soothe fevered diplomatic brows and eases the way to constructive compromise. The Secret Service also likes the Crawford, Texas ranch because its relative isolation eases their security problems and they can control the news media.

The advance reports said that topping the agenda for Bush’s meeting with Mexican President Vincente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin are problems with the NAFTA free trade agreement and with security along their borders.

The border with Mexico, it is said, has become a virtual infiltration route for Al Qaeda agents moving in among the thousands of illegal immigrants crossing over. They are said to come from bases in the tri-border region along the common borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay – an area so wild and remote that government law officers shy away. Thus, those of us who have worked in South America cannot help but ask whether the tri-border region is one of the world’s emerging threat areas and whether our Latin American back door has suddenly become a very serious national security problem. If, indeed, that is so, then President Bush has kept whatever concern he has from the American public.

A widening gap between the rich and the poor is causing increasing social and political turmoil throughout Latin America, and the trend towards leftist governments is growing. Venezuela’s leftist President Hugo Chavez controls one of our major oil sources and he regularly demonizes President Bush in his speeches. In Beijing recently, Chavez gave China development rights to 15 oil fields and permission to build oil refineries in Venezuela.

Most Americans are not aware that left-leaning Brazil is the world’s fifth largest source of uranium and has built a plant to process nuclear fuel for – they say – domestic use and for sale abroad. After a long-standing refusal to allow UN access, Brazil finally agreed to limited UN inspection last October. Thus, we might have at our Latin American backdoor another nuclear proliferation problem.

Cuba’s Fidel Castro is said by Latin American experts to be again emerging as a serious threat to U. S. security interests. It’s said that Castro has trained thousands of Latin American terrorists and that his spy agency called the DGI has infiltrated throughout Latin America to help elect leftist leaders.

Thus, the growing gap between the rich and the poverty-stricken is increasing the pressures on Latin American democracies and creating a new axis of concern for the three amigos meeting in Crawford, Texas.

This is Bill Seamans.

Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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