Conservative US President George W. Bush will encounter many of Latin America's new left-wing leaders at the Summit of the Americas opening here.
Bush, who arrives here at midday Monday, is scheduled to hold one-on-one meetings with his counterparts from Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. Ideological differences may cause friction on issues such as Cuba, free trade and immigration policy.
The two-day gathering "will really reveal the differences between governments," InterAmerican Development Bank President Enrique Iglesias told reporters Sunday.
In one illustration of the lack of consensus, diplomats have yet to complete a draft final statement for the summit. The text was still stalled early Monday by disagreements on language concerning free trade and the fight against corruption.
Bush is to hold separate bilateral meetings Monday with the presidents of Chile, moderate socialist Ricardo Lagos, and of Brazil, left-wing former labor leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Both have gained the confidence of Washington and international lending institutions.
Washington still does not know what to make of Argentina's president, Nestor Kirchner, whom Bush meets Tuesday. The United States has saluted his leadership but criticized him for not taking "difficult decisions" to tackle Argentina's 81-billion-dollar debt.
Washington has also said Argentina is too friendly toward Cuba.
Bush has no plans to meet with populist President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, a key US oil supplier. Tensions have increased between the two sides in recent days, since Chavez called US national security advisor Condoleezza Rice a "true illiterate" for accusing him of not playing a constructive role in Latin America.
Chavez further charged Sunday that the United States was plotting with the opposition in Venezuela to oust him, and promised to put the issue before the summit.
"I am going to say what I am going to say in Monterrey; I am going to warn the world," Chavez said during his weekly radio show in Caracas Sunday, in reference to an alleged plot between Washington and his political foes at home.
The United States has accused Chavez of financing left-wing Bolivian opposition leader Evo Morales, whose political forces helped topple former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada last year.
Both Chavez and Kirchner declined to meet with Bolivia's new president, Carlos Mesa, at the Ibero-American Summit in November 2003 -- but met with Morales instead.
Bush's meeting with Lula comes amid tension over new security measures the United States has put in place, photographing and fingerprinting foreign visitors. Brazil has responded by imposing similar measures for US travellers entering Brazil.
In addition to the security measures, Bush and Lula are likely to discuss the progress of negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which aims to create by 2005 the world's largest free trade area, with a market of some 800 million people.
Brazil long fought to slow down the pace of FTAA plans, and is among those who want no mention of a kick-off date for the zone in the summit's final declaration.
© 2004 AFP