Several thousand protesters marched through the streets of Santiago, Chile Friday to protest the APEC (Asia and Pacific Economic forum) meeting taking place there and, in particular, the visit by President Bush. He is to arrive there in the coming hours. The turmoil had no effect on the well-guarded meeting.
Chanting slogans and waving banners, the mostly peaceful demonstrators walked through streets made empty by a government-declared holiday. The march ended at a downtown park, where most of the estimated 15,000 participants sat to hear a concert and a variety of speakers from anti-free trade organizations.
Police broke up a group of several dozen demonstrators who tagged on to the end of the main march. Police used water cannon and tear gas to drive away the protesters who were throwing rocks at places of business and attempting to set up barricades in the street. The melee had little effect on the main group of demonstrators who had already arrived at the park, although a number of people who said they were not involved in the violence were overcome by the tear gas.
Many protesters carried posters condemning President Bush and the war in Iraq. A woman calling herself Carolina said disapproval of the U.S. president was her main reason for taking part in the march.
She said she believes President Bush wants to dominate Latin America through disadvantageous trade agreements in the same way he has dominated Iraq militarily.
Meanwhile, several kilometers away behind a cordon of security personnel, representatives of 21 Asia and Pacific economies continued their meetings undisturbed.
Ministers meeting ahead of this weekend's summit of APEC leaders established an agenda that covers everything from support for the latest World Trade Organization talks to addressing the threat of terrorism. Some Asian nations have insisted that the main focus be kept on trade issues, but U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick says security and trade go hand in hand.
"We have actually seen how, if we work in a cooperative fashion, many of the same steps you take on the security side can help on some of the trade facilitation and cost-cutting side," he said. "And, of course, keep in mind, if you do not have fundamental security, it is going to be hard to have an active trading system. Look at the shock of the events of September 11  on the trade and economy system. So, we have to get security right."
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is also on hand for what will be one of his last such international meetings before leaving office, is discussing the security issue in great detail with his APEC counterparts. President Bush is also expected to address counter terrorism and regional security during his presentation at the summit this weekend.