Bush rebuked by the hand of God

By Phil Davison

Published: 06 November 2005


George Bush presumably knew before this weekend that the "hand of God" could be merciless. He certainly does now. Maradona, rather than Iraq, was uppermost on the US President's mind this weekend as he attended a summit of leaders from the Western hemisphere in the Argentinian beach resort of Mar del Plata.

As domestic polls informed him that he was increasingly mistrusted by his fellow Americans, Mr Bush was clearly mortified to be called "human trash" by Latin America's equivalent of Michael Jordan - the Argentinian football legend Diego Maradona.

Despite being a compatriot of Ché Guevara, Maradona is an unlikely revolutionary. He cheated at football but was forgiven on account of his genius on the field. He also screwed up with drugs and was forgiven for that, too, because he fought it and, so far, is overcoming it. But could he be a nail in George Bush's political coffin? Don't rule it out.

Anyone who has spent time in Latin America recently knows Mr Bush is the least popular US president among Latin Americans in history. Five Latin American countries have voted in left-of-centre governments since he took office. From the indigenous people through to the middle classes and even among the elite, Latin Americans increasingly seek not the American dream, but the Latin American dream. They are disillusioned with what Maradona yesterday called "the American Empire".

The so-called Fourth Summit of the Americas on Friday and yesterday was supposed to be about eradicating poverty and spreading democracy. With all respect to the diplomatic envoys and the hundreds of millions of pounds spent on making the summit happen, little significant was ever going to come out of it. As it turned out, the theme of "Bush, get out!" was eerily reminiscent of the "Yanqui, go home" of the Eighties in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where the US attempted to prop up military-backed regimes.

While Mr Bush jetted in with an entourage of advisers, diplomats, soldiers and secret service men of unheard-of proportions, Maradona and Mr Bush's new nemesis, Hugo "the new Castro" Chavez, President of oil-soaked Venezuela, rumbled in on a "peace train" from Buenos Aires. Mr Chavez, who calls Bush Señor Peligro (Mr Danger) and has accused him of planning to invade Venezuela for its oil, made his point by first attending a parallel, anti-Bush "People's Summit".

"If [Mister Bush] is desperate enough to invade us, he will find himself in a 100-year war," Mr Chavez, a retired army colonel, said. Behind Mr Chavez in the city's multi-sports stadium was an enormous portrait of Guevara. In front of him were 25,000 people and banners telling Bush that "YOU are the terrorist" and comparing him with Hitler for his policies in Iraq.

Even the mayor of Mar del Plata, Daniel Katz, was upset that Mr Bush was there. "Bush probably doesn't even know that people here are so solidly against him," he said. Mr Katz earlier this year described the American President as "the most disagreeable man on the planet".

Before Mr Bush left last night for Brazil, around 1,000 protesters, ostensibly separate from the "People's Summit" of Maradona and Mr Chavez, burned US flags and smashed shop windows in Mar del Plata.