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Bush To Propel Latin American Issues

August 25, 2000

MIAMI (AP) _ George W. Bush is showing off his statesmanship with a pledge to help propel ``a revolution of freedom″ in Latin countries by fighting dictatorships and fostering trade where he says the Clinton administration has let it flounder.

``As long as you are on the road toward liberty, you will not be alone,″ he said in prepared remarks aimed at Latin American countries south of this heavily Hispanic city. ``As long as you are moving toward freedom, you will have a steady friend in the United States of America.″

He had a different message for Cuba, restating his support for economic sanctions on the communist country until dictator Fidel Castro accepts democratic reforms.

``I challenge the Castro regime to surprise the world and adopt the ways of democracy,″ Bush said in his prepared remarks. ``Until it frees political prisoners, and holds free elections and allows free speech, I will keep the sanctions in place.″

``Mr. Castro, it is time to let your people go.″

The Texas governor also took a hard line against the Clinton administration, saying it ``dropped the ball″ in securing new trade deals with some Latin American nations. And he pledged to succeed where Clinton failed in persuading Congress to pass so-called ``fast track″ trade legislation that could be passed or rejected without amendment.

``Without it, as we have seen, America is slow to move, and other nations are unwilling to negotiate with us seriously,″ Bush said. ``The Clinton-Gore administration has had no strategy.″

The speech in this heavily Hispanic city is the first Friday of two ``hemispheric″ foreign policy events, a subject on which Bush strives to prove his competence in the face of questions about his knowledge and abilities.

``Should I become president, I will look South, not as an afterthought, but as a fundamental commitment of my presidency,″ he said. ``Just as we ended the great divide between East and West, so today we can overcome the North-South divide.″

Later in Dallas, he was to meet privately with Vicente Fox to find out, in part, what the Mexican president-elect’s plans are regarding the eventual opening of the nation’s 2,000-mile border with the United States.

``I don’t think he’s fully explained open borders,″ Bush said. ``I believe we ought to enforce our borders.″

But Bush also said he would carry a message of optimism and goodwill to the elected leader a day after Fox met with President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

``My pledge will be: Should I become the president, I’ll work and have a good, long-term relationship with (him) and continue a good relationship with Mexico,″ Bush told reporters aboard his campaign plane Thursday.

Mexico is one nation with which the Texas governor has had extensive foreign policy experience, and he sought in his speech to broaden his agenda to nations that lie elsewhere in that region _ especially those moving toward democracy and free trade.

Fox, a new American president and other leaders in the region, Bush said, could shape a new era in U.S.-Latin American relations.

``It is a revolution of freedom _ of trade, and democracy, and the rule of law,″ Bush said. ``If we are wise and committed, a new generation of leaders can affect its character.″

If elected president, Bush said he would:

_Push for a summit a few weeks after Election Day with Mexican leaders to keep relations between the countries ``moving forward;″

-Ask Congress for $100 million for ``micro-credit″ organizations in Latin America, with help from World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank to provide small, no-collateral loans to the poor who set up businesses;

_Hire more border patrol agents and reform the Immigration and Naturalization Service to crack down on illegal immigration and drug trafficking;

_Establish an ``American Fellows Program″ in which young men and women from those nations would be invited to work in the U.S. government;

_And, call on Latin American governments to lift barriers of bureaucracy and over regulation that prevent the poor from creating legal small businesses.

Bush did not mention the controversy over castaway Elian Gonzalez, who went home to Cuba June 28.

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