New York Post
By RALPH PETERS
March 11, 2007 -- AS our president arrived in Brazil last week, the U.S. media made it sound as if Latin America had erupted in flames. TV news featured flying tear-gas canisters; a typical newspaper headline read, "Angry Crowds Rally Against President in Brazil."
Message: Bush is hated. He's ruined our relations with the hemisphere. Nobody loves us anymore - and it's all his fault.
Well, venceremos, muchachos, and no pasdaran!
If you bothered to read the reports below the headlines, you learned that 6,000 Brazilians had gathered in Sao Paulo to protest Bush's arrival in their country.
Wait a minute - wasn't that 600,000? Or at least 60,000?
Nope. Just 6,000 outraged citizens. Out of Brazil's population of 200 million.
Shucks, down here in Washington you can rally 6,000 activists at a moment's notice to march for equal rights for prairie dogs.
Couldn't Cindy Sheehan have flown down to pump up the numbers a little? (Or Jack "I'm a hero!" Murtha? He'd look studly in a Speedo on a Rio beach . . . )
LEFTIES can take some heart from a larger-scale demon stration in Argentina, where Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez is sponsoring an anti-American rally.
In return for letting Chavez stage his boo-Bush-bash, Argentine President Nestor Kirchner got a promise that Venezuela will buy up $3 billion in the government's debt. Oh, and buses will deliver paid demonstrators to the rally.
If the tango on the Rio de la Plata disappoints our ardent media (who'll still report it as a spontaneous expression of the popular will), they'll always have Mexico. We can expect tens of thousands of anti-Bush demonstrators to turn out in downtown Mexico City. Of course, a million recently camped out there to protest Mexico's version of hanging chads . . .
In fact, the Mexicans who matter will be at work. (On both sides of the border.)
Here's a never-fail rule for judging the size of demonstrations on your TV screen: If you're seeing a crowd filmed at street level, it means the journalist on the scene is disappointed at the sparse turn-out.
When there's a super-size protest, the camera jockey mounts a multistory building to pan over the mass. If you only see the front ranks of demonstrators shot with a camera held low, it means there ain't much behind them.
And you'll never see a "newspaper of record" headline that admits, "Anti-Bush Demonstrations Fizzle, Numbers Just Aren't There."
ALL Americans should give Bush credit for trying to make up for lost time: This trip to engage our southern neighbors is far more valuable than yet another plunge into the quicksand of the Middle East.
Mexico and the rest of Latin America were overlooked casualties of 9/11, as the administration's policies veered to all-terrorism, all-the-time.
Our future lies to the south - whether we like it or not. As for myself, I like it.
So do most of our Latin American neighbors. One of the many destructive consequences of removing history requirements from K-thru-12 and our universities has been historical amnesia. Upset about 6,000 kids out for a protest party in Brazil? Check out the demonstrations going back to the 1950s - and don't skip the Clinton era.
As for Chavez, yeah, he's a menace. But I promise you, he'll prove to be a minor one in the end. He's splashing cash like a junkie who won the lottery and, while money may buy you access and paid crowds to cheer along, it really doesn't buy love.
Polls show that South Americans have a lower opinion of Chavez, whom they distrust, than of Bush. They've been there, done that. The last thing they want is more conflict.
OUR Chavez-is-bigger-than- Streisand media simply isn't telling you the truth. The really big story in Latin America isn't resurgent socialism (recent elections returned more moderates and conservatives than Chavistas), but the wildfire spread of Pentecostal Protestantism, with its self-reliant philosophy of hard work and moral behavior - and an innate affinity with the American way.
When the U.S. media isn't ignoring Latin America, it's feeding us leftist lies that play into the hands of bigots on both sides of the political aisle.
Bush is doing the right thing, and he's going to the right places. Protests will swell as the trip progresses, but that's part of the political-tourism package. Latin America is moving forward - despite Chavez's erotic fixation on the corpse of Che Guevara.
I WISH Bush could've engaged Latin America six years ago, as he intended to. Osama hurt our entire hemisphere on that September morning. But better late than never: No region on earth is as important to our future as Latin America.
Now I think I'll uncork a bottle of Chilean wine to go with the pollo con mole that mamacita's making for dinner.
Ralph Peters' latest book is "Never Quit the Fight."
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