By Deborah Orin. New York
Post. April 23, 2001.
April 23, 2001 -- President Bush and 33 other leaders at the violence-marred
Summit of the Americas yesterday endorsed a free-trade zone by 2005 - but said
only democracies will be welcome.
Failure to maintain democracy would be "an insurmountable obstacle"
to membership, they said in their lengthy and final communiqué in Quebec
City, where the summit and violent protests ended yesterday.
The 34 leaders went out of their way to signal concern about the democracy -
or lack of it - today in Haiti, where President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is
accused of fraudulent elections and suppressing critics.
Quebec City was quieter yesterday after two days when cops used water
cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters who hurled debris as
they tried to storm a security fence isolating the summit site.
Asked if the tear gas bothered him, Secretary of State Colin Powell wryly
remarked, "It didn't affect me - but an old infantryman always remembers
what tear gas and pot smell like when you walk into the barracks."
Aides said Bush watched some of the violent clashes on TV, and might have
gotten one whiff of tear gas himself, but wasn't buying the protesters' argument
that free trade hurts the poor.
On Haiti, the summit's host, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, voiced
concern about "fragile" democracy and said the Organization of
American States will make a visit to check what's going on in Haiti.
Diplomats said the expressions of concern about Haiti were to make sure that
Aristide can't use his presence at the summit - where only democracies were
invited and Cuba was excluded - to claim he has international support.
Aristide, ousted by foes, was restored to power when the Clinton
administration threatened military action in 1994, but his subsequent election
Bush has vowed to push for closer ties with Latin America but could have
trouble negotiating a free-trade zone from the Arctic to Argentina unless
Congress grants him so-called fast-track (or trade promotion) powers.
That lets a president negotiate a treaty and then submit it to the Senate
for an all-or-nothing vote, and bars senators from trying to rewrite it
line-by-line to protect pet industries or issues.
The summit marked Bush's debut at an international gathering, and he took a
low-key approach in pursuit of what he has called a "humble" foreign
policy - but he was clearly the star of the show.