President Bush, arriving in Uruguay Tuesday, called for a "permanent partnership among all nations of the Americas."
After an airport welcoming ceremony, Bush, the first American president to visit Uruguay since Lyndon Johnson in 1967, began talks with President Luis Alberto Lacalle."I look forward to talking with the president about the exciting future that lies ahead. We in the Americas are on the brink of something unprecedented in world history - the first wholly democratic hemisphere," Bush said.
"And in anticipation of that, we need to create together a permanent partnership among all the nations of the Americas," he said. Bush was underscoring the primary focus of his trip - a salute to democracy - and his proposal for free trade throughout the hemisphere.
Thousands of people lined Bush's motorcade route through the streets of Montevideo. The crowds were overwhelmingly friendly, although there were clusters of demonstrators making rude hand gestures and waving signs.
Leftist demonstrators planned a protest to coincide with an afternoon speech Bush planned to give the national legislature. There also were calls for a mass protest tonight after Bush's departure from Montevideo for the resort city of Punta del Este.
Uruguay is one of the few countries remaining with a strong left-wing movement. Uruguayan radicals oppose Bush's call for market-oriented economies in Latin America.
The president did not mention the troubles in neighboring Argentina where the government put down a military coup attempt a day earlier.
U.S. officials were not surprised that a military rebellion in Argentina fizzled, but there were lingering concerns over Bush's safety.
Still, the timing for Bush could hardly have been worse. He wanted to use this trip partly to call attention to the hemisphere's democratic development over the past decade.
Bush said in a speech to the Brazilian legislature on Monday that the hemisphere had embarked on a "new era of hope," a statement that did not blend well with the scenes of violence occurring next door in Argentina.
A highlight of the president's visit to Brazil was the announcement of approval by Bush to license the sale of a high-performance computer, with potential military uses, that Brazil had sought for two years. The U.S. move was prompted by Brazil's joining with Argentina last week in renouncing the manufacture of nuclear weapons.
The president also praised Brazil for being among the first countries to impose economic sanctions against Iraq last August.
Aside from celebrating democracy, a main purpose of Bush's tour is to promote his vision of a hemisphere-wide free trade area and to encourage the trend toward growth-oriented economic policies.
After his visit Wednesday to Argentina, Bush flies to Chile on Thursday and heads home Saturday after a visit to Venezuela.