Bush and Putin are the main targets of anti-globalization protesters
George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin, and leaders from other 19 Asian - Pacific nations including China's Hu Jintao and Japan's Junichiro Koizumi are beggining to arrive in Santiago to attend to Chile's APEC summit on Saturday. They are being kindly welcomed by local authorities, but harshly seen by thousands of activists that promised to frustrate a forum meant to discuss cooperation to fight terrorism in the Pacific ring, as well as a free trade deal for the area.
Activists from different anti-globalization groups coordinated by local leftist unions and political parties organized an anti-APEC Social Forum, massive protests and even protagonized clashes with the police in their attempt to rise their voice against free trade and what they see as a bloody and unfair fight against terrorism led by USA and Russia. Protesters have identified US President George W. Bush and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin as their political targets for their outrage.
A 25-year-old Chilean activist who goes by the name Miguel says that the battle will begin as soon as Bush arrives in this South American capital on Friday in his first trip abroad since his re-election. Activists say they are working out a plan to violate security measures to get access to restricted areas.
Recently, leftist parties led by the Communist Party of Chile, which obtained 10% of the votes in the last municipal elections- filed a suit against Bush, demanding courts to arrest him on crimes and abuses in Iraq.
Under Chilean law, local courts can take measures to enforce compliance with international treaties to which Chile is a signatory, including the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. The complaint was rejected by a lower court judge but is on appeal. However, in order to prevent any embarrasing situation, Santiago gave Bush political immunity.
They do not like Putin as well. They consider Russia is responsible for the war in Chechnia and blame its leader for the violent resolution of the last terrorist assault to the school in Beslan.
For Chilean officials, the summit is a kind of coming-out party affirming its status as South America's most dynamic economy. In January, Chile became the first country on the continent to enter into a free-trade agreement with the United States. "Just the fact that 21 leaders will be here, along with the 500 corporate chiefs, and that we will contribute to the success of the World Trade Organization and the completion of the Doha Round (of free-trade talks in Qatar) already makes the summit a triumph," Foreign Minister Ignacio Walker told reporters Tuesday.
Chile's businessmen fully support the forum, as country's economy is focused on exports. An eventual free trade deal intention agreement coming out from 2004's APEC forum would sound as celestial music for them.
To keep protests in check, the Chilean government has deployed thousands of additional police officers to patrol strategic points around Santiago. It has also tighten controls in airports and banned air traffic over the capital... just in case.
Reporting from Santiago, Chile