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Rio Group Arrives in Peru for Annual Summit - 2003-05-23

Presidents of the 19 nation Rio Group arrived in Peru's Cuzco for their annual summit amid a nationwide teachers' strike, highlighting one of the pressing topics of discussion, how to govern with huge populations mired in hard-core poverty and clamoring for a better life.

Leaders arriving from all over Latin America were greeted with the smell of teargas as they entered the famed Inca city in the Andean highlands where striking teachers are pushing their demands.

Meeting behind closed doors in Cuzco they will have a chance to discuss their options for coping with ongoing economic hardship and political instability. Or as one analyst put it, how to govern a country whose people are unhappy.

Presidential authority is increasingly under pressure in Latin America. In Venezuela President Hugo Chavez' opposition still calls for his ouster. Argentina's economic discontent recently helped to force out President Fernando de la Rua. And in Peru, President Alejandro Toledo's popularity has plummeted to 14 percent, as multiple sectors punish him for unfilled campaign promises of more jobs with crippling strikes.

The group of 14 Latin American leaders attending the Cuzco summit are expected to hash over how to strengthen their weakened democratic institutions and political party systems.

But the global concern with terror will also be discussed during the two-day Rio Group summit. As Colombia's war against its two guerrilla groups spills over its borders, the specter of those guerrilla groups exacerbating civil unrest in neighboring countries is a growing concern.

The meeting is expected to conclude with a document called the Cuzco Consensus, pulling together the conclusions of the two-day summit.