Sunday, June 30th 2002 - 21:00 UTC

Mr. Bush “knows nothing about” the region

Brazilian president Fernando Cardoso described his United States counterpart George W. Bush, in an off the record conversation, as ignorant of Latinamerican affairs adding that this has condemned the area to “irrelevance”.

President Cardoso made the confession during an interview with a Mexican television crew, in anticipation of Mexican president Vicente Fox's visit to Mercosur. However his words were recorded without his knowledge after finishing a first block.

The Brazilian president also revealed that on several occasions he requested President Bush to help Argentina out of its current financial turmoil but was received with "indifference".

"First time I talked about the subject with president Bush his attitude was completely "hands off". Then war on terrorism began and that was the end of it", admits Mr. Cardoso.

According to the Brazilian press the interviewer, Mexican journalist, writer and political analyst Héctor Aguilar Camín, never warned president Cardoso he was recording what was considered a private conversation.

Further on Mr. Cardoso said that President Bush contrary to the previous (Clinton) administration, "does not have a similar web of contacts in the area".

In the formal interview president Cardoso criticizes United States attitude of "permanent defence", adopted following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"This has led our region to irrelevance for American foreign policy; we represent no threat to United States", indicated Mr. Cardoso adding that the only countries in which the Bush administration is interested are "Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela", meaning the "debate is far from Mercosur".

"We're going through a bad moment, Europe seems unable to react to the current United States hegemony and they seem to be afraid as far as initiatives are concerned".

The Brazilian president further on says that the region should take advantage of the US "irrelevance" attitude.

"It gives us space to advance. We can have the opportunity of becoming favorably involved in the world economy, we can try links such as those we've managed with Mexico", underlines the Brazilian president.

Mexico and Brazil will be signing a trade agreement this week when Mexican president Vicente Fox begins an official visit to Mercosur country members.

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