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Bush's Visit to Peru Under Tight Security - 2002-03-23


Police in the Peruvian capital of Lima have dispersed demonstrators near one of the hotels where international reporters covering this weekend's Andean summit are staying. However, police say the city remains calm and under tight security as President Bush and regional leaders come together for their summit.

In spite of a plea by Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo that there be no protest marches during the summit, small groups of demonstrators gathered in some areas of the city. Someone threw a few small homemade explosive devices from a moving vehicle in the eastern part of the city on Saturday, but no one was injured.

Around midday, just before the arrival of President Bush, National Police dispersed around 100 demonstrators in front of the Justice Palace, which is just across the street from the international press center.

The protesters were part of an organization called the Resistance Group ("Grupo de Resistencia") that was formed several years ago to oppose then-President Alberto Fujimori. The group is protesting the visit of President Bush because of what its leaders perceive to be U.S. interference in Peruvian affairs.

National Police official Agustin Soto emphasizes all remains calm now. "The city remains under control and police are doing all they can to provide a secure environment for the meeting between President Bush, President Toledo and the leaders of neighboring Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia," he said.

Earlier in the week some social and labor groups had planned marches, but canceled them after a bombing Wednesday near the U.S. embassy that killed nine people. The bombing has raised concerns that leftist rebels may be making a comeback here in Peru and that this could cause a security threat for President Bush. The president, however, refused to cancel his visit, saying that he would not allow terrorists to prevent him from carrying out his meetings here.

President Bush flies to the Central American nation of El Salvador on Sunday for a brief meeting with regional leaders before returning to Washington later that day.

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