President Bush has arrived in Brazil, but not everyone is happy to see him.
The president's trip was intended to promote democracy, increased trade and cooperation on alternative fuels. Mr. Bush and his advisers also hope his visit will offset the growing influence of leftist leaders, such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.
As the president flew Thursday on Air Force One, Mr. Bush's national security adviser brushed aside Chavez's provocations.
"The president is going to do what he's been doing for a long time: talk about a positive agenda," said Stephen Hadley.
Police clashed with students, environmentalists and left-leaning Brazilians, some waving communist flags, ahead of Mr. Bush's visit. Riot police fired tear gas after more than 6,000 people held a largely peaceful march through the financial district. And in the southern city of Porto Alegre, more than 500 people yelled "Get Out, Imperialist!" as they burned an effigy of Mr. Bush outside a Citigroup Inc. bank branch.
Meanwhile, the police commander of Colombia, which the president will visit on Sunday, said authorities had thwarted leftist rebel plans to disrupt Mr. Bush's visit to Bogota. "We have taken measures to neutralize them," said Gen. Jorge Daniel Castro, Colombia's highest-ranking police officer.
Mr. Bush will also use his visit to Brazil to promote his vision that biofuels can ease the dependence on foreign oil, CBS News Radio correspondent Peter Maer reports.
Cars in Sao Paolo run on sugar-cane ethanol or a gasoline-ethanol blend. But both are more expensive than gasoline is in the United States, Maer reports.
Mr. Bush played down the protests in interviews ahead of his trip with Latin American news organizations.
"I am proud to be going to a part of the world where people can demonstrate, where people can express their minds," he said in an interview with Univision. And he told CNN En Espanol: "The trip is to remind people that we care."
Chavez, aligned with Cuba's Fidel Castro and a fierce critic of the president, is marking Mr. Bush's trip with a rival tour of the region.
On Saturday, the Venezuelan leader will speak at an "anti-imperialist" rally in a soccer stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina, about 40 miles across the Plate River from Montevideo, where Mr. Bush will be holding talks with Uruguay's president, Tabare Vazquez.
Hadley told reporters that instead of worrying about Chavez, the president was "going to be focusing on those countries and those leaders that have the right model and the right ideas for a better Latin America."
In addition to Brazil, Uruguay and Colombia, Mr. Bush is also visiting Guatemala and Mexico.
Mr. Bush did not plan visits to any countries that have moved into Chavez's sphere of influence, including Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua.
President Bush and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva are expected to announce an "ethanol alliance" on Saturday aimed at creating quality standards for the alternative fuel while joining forces to promote more ethanol use in nations lying between Brazil and the United States.
Silva, in turn, has said he will press the U.S. Congress to repeal or scale back the 54-cent per gallon U.S. tariff on sugar-based Brazilian ethanol. Mr. Bush and Silva also were expected to talk about efforts to salvage the World Trade Organization talks — the so-called Doha round — that collapsed in discord last summer over farm subsidies and other disputes.
But he probably can't look to Mr. Bush for much help on that score. Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman, said tariff matters are "up to Congress" and that Mr. Bush wasn't expected to weigh in on the dispute.
Among those participating in Thursday's protests were environmentalists and social groups who oppose the biofuels project, fearing that Brazil may clear pristine jungle to ramp up sugarcane cultivation. Greenpeace activists hung a huge banner warning against increased reliance on ethanol as an alternative fuel on a monument to 17th-century Portuguese explorers and conquerors.