Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, soccer icon Diego Maradona, Yugoslavian filmmaker Emir Kusturica and Cuban songwriter Silvio Rodriguez will lead demonstrations against the US president
Amid unprecedented security controls for Argentina, 100,000 demonstrators are expected to gather in Mar del Plata on Friday to protest against US President George W. Bush and his attempts to fuel a free trade agreement for the Americas. Shortly after 34 leaders from the Organization of American States – all except Cuba - would have finished the Fourth Summit of the Americas, the Venezuela President Hugo Chavez is expected to give a speech before the “Summit of the People,” a parallel assembly organized by NGO's from all over the world.
On Friday morning a full train coming from Buenos Aires will arrive in Mar del Plata – some 400 kilometres south of the Argentine capital - carrying anti-summit politicians, social leaders and celebrities to protest Bush's plans. Among them are: Diego Maradona, the local soccer hero, Emir Kusturica, the famous Yugoslavian filmmaker, and the Cuban songwriter Silvio Rodriguez who will offer a concert for a crowd in the municipal stadium.
Maradona, who hosts a top seen TV show in Buenos Aires, met last week with Cuban leader Fidel Castro for an interview aired on Monday. There, Castro blessed the anti-Bush protests and even suggested the US President not to attend to Mar del Plata.
"It would be better for him to find a pretext and not go. This is seriously an error, the FTAA is already dead and buried," Castro said during the five-hour interview, which was aired in part.
Castro joked that Maradona could become the target of assassination attempts, like those against him, if the soccer legend gets labeled a 'subversive.' And he said Bush should not underestimate Argentines' strong opposition to the U.S. administration. “He shouldn't go because he will offend the Argentine spirit,” added the Communist leader.
"We are in solidarity with you and with Argentina," Castro told Maradona. "We have fought for decades, and we will be happy knowing that you are there."
Bush's lack of support in Latin America is huge. But Argentineans are the ones that hate the most, the US leader. According to recent opinion polls, his popularity descends to less than 8 percent in Buenos Aires and the main cities of the country.
But it will be not necessary for Castro to lead the anti-Summit campaign. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez aims to take his post and his anti-US rhetoric is expected to become a fierce opponent for the Washington's delegation.
Chavez has recently commented that he will attend to the Mar del Plata's summit to “send to hell” the US proposal to create a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The Venezuelan president believes that the FTAA is part of the “imperialistic” policy of Washington, as vows for the Latin American integration, which of course excludes the US.
Photo: Fidel Castro and Diego Maradona play soccer in Havanna. The interview was aired on Monday