Bush to Meet Ecletic Mix of South American Presidents With AM-Bush-South America
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (AP) _ President Bush will meet this week with five South American presidents of widely differing backgrounds and styles.
Here is a look at the five leaders:
-BRAZIL: Fernando Collor de Mello, 40, is Brazil’s youngest-ever president. A little-known state governor until last year, Collor was the surprise winner in Brazil’s first free presidential election after a 21-year military regime.
He has decreed sweeping reforms to cut 5,000-percent inflation and lower trade barriers. But his autocratic style has antagonized legislators, big business and labor.
Personally, Collor cuts a striking figure in Savile Row suits and imported silk ties. He has a black belt in karate and is often shown playing volleyball, soccer and tennis or riding jet-skis and motorcycles. Bush has called him ″Indiana Jones.″
-URUGUAY: Luis Alberto Lacalle, 48, is a former senator and the scion of one of Uruguay’s most traditional political clans. His grandfather, Luis Alberto de Herrera, was the key figure in the National Party this century.
Lacalle is expected to speak English with Bush, while most other presidents will use interpreters.
-ARGENTINA: Carlos Menem, 60, is known equally for his political astuteness and flamboyant lifestyle.
A lawyer and three-time provincial governor, Menem rose in the ranks of the ″Peronistas″ - followers of the late dictator Juan Peron. He was jailed during the violent 1976-1983 military dictatorship.
Menem surprised followers by enacting tough anti-inflation measures, selling state companies and renewing ties with the United States and Great Britain, Argentina’s enemies during a 1982 undeclared war over the Falkland Islands.
Menem made headlines recently when he separated from his wife Zulema and evicted her and their children from the presidential palace in Buenos Aires.
-CHILE: Patricio Aylwin, 72, took office in March after 17 years of authoritarian rule by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Aylwin, a former law professor, was backed by a 17-party coalition from the left to the center-right.
Aylwin was leader of the senate and seven times president of the centrist Christian Democratic Party. In the 1960s, he presided over the U.N. General Assembly.
A consummate politician, Aylwin has kept his coalition united. Polls show he is the country’s most popular president ever.
-VENEZUELA: Carlos Andres Perez, in his second term as president, is an ex- populist who has dropped the anti-Yankee rhetoric of decades past.
When Perez was president from 1974 to 1979, during Venezuela’s oil bonanza, he was a classic leftist populist denouncing ″imperialism.″
Today, Perez is pushing tough economic reforms to cut inflation and a $35 billion foreign debt. The result has been unemployment and even riots.
A workaholic who rises at 4 a.m. to ride an exercise bike and then works till midnight, Perez often gives two-hour speeches and sees himself as a Latin American spokesman for social democracy.