President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela will lead a rally in a stadium in Buenos Aires on Friday, when US President George W. Bush arrives to the San Juan presidential residence estancia in Uruguay, only 60 kilometers away from the Argentine capital.
President Bush's visit to Uruguay is seen as a sign of support for the government of President Tabaré Vázquez and his plan to reach a free trade agreement with the US. The Uruguayan ruling coalition is deeply divided on the issue, but it was accepted that President Vazquez, as he was hosted last May in the White House, must now do the same with the US president. This however does not impede the organization by the local trade unions movement that supports Vazquez and the Socialist oriented coalition, of protesting the US leader presence in Uruguay. Meantime in Buenos Aires, dozens of activist groups are planning a protest at a football stadium which can hold up to 40,000 people. Jorge Ceballos, an Argentine activist who is organizing the rally told local radio it is meant as an "alternative message" to US policies in the region. "The United States is trying to block the expansion of Mercosur," said Ceballos, who also serves as deputy secretary at the Social Development Ministry. Venezuela became an observer member of the Mercosur trade bloc last year, joining Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Smaller nations Paraguay and Uruguay complain they do not benefit from the bloc and seek permission to make bilateral trade deals. Venezuela's Chavez arrives Friday to Buenos Aires and will then fly to visit his "brother" Evo Morales in Bolivia. Humberto Tumini a member of one of the radical picket groups that support Argentine president Nestor Kirchner said President Morales is another unconfirmed guest of the "anti Bush festival" rally. Tumini also argued in favor of the massive security to be displayed by Chavez when he arrives in Buenos Aires Friday and which includes 500 members of the Venezuelan elite forces. The Bolivarian revolution leader's visit to Buenos Aires, and rally, was agreed when Argentine president Nestor Kirchner recently was in Venezuela. "There's no mystery about this trip, we all know Chavez loves to address multitudes", said Tumini. "The rally is to protest Bush' visit to Uruguay" said Tumini who anticipated Chavez will be speaking about US president Bush and this "will generate a great impact in the world media". Apparently President Kirchner tried unsuccessfully to tune down Chavez' rally so as to not unnecessarily offend United States and the Jewish community which condemn the Venezuelan administration's open support of Iran. Finance and strategic cooperation are in Chavez' Argentine agenda: Venezuela recently acquired Argentine sovereign bonds and both countries will be implementing a South Development Bank for which Argentina has promised 3.5 billion US dollars in starting funds. The Venezuelan leader also carries 15 million US dollars in aid to be delivered to his "best disciple" Evo Morales from Bolivia that is suffering of weeks of rain and flooding.