QUEBEC (CP) - The prying lenses and sharp pencils of the press had been shooed out of the meeting hall.
Prime Minister Jean Chretien assured his fellow
summit leaders their discussion was now closed and they
could let their hair down. Many did. But none of them noticed that a translated feed of their vigourous
discussion was still flowing out of the room.
But an alert producer with Radio-Canada did take
notice and scrambled to run an audio tape of the
private discussions held Saturday. Some of what was recorded would have cheered those on the streets
and may have chagrined George W. Bush. The U.S. president could take comfort that his chivalry
was noted by the only woman head of state around the table.
''I have to say that the speakers make excellent
speeches but they only speak of `Mr. presidents,' ''
said Panamanian President Mireya Elisa Moscoso.
''There's a woman president here, which I'm sure
will only be a short-term exception. I'd like to thank
President Bush for pointing this (the predominantly male presence) out to me during the break.''
No TV cameras were rolling to reveal if Bush blushed.
But much of the rest of the session must have
been dreary for the U.S. president. One after one, leaders of
smaller or poorer countries lined up to indirectly question whether his vision of unbridled capitalism is the
best way to nurture nascent democracies.
Bush had told his counterparts during the televised
session that democracy linked to markets was the
best weapon against tyranny.
But, once the cameras left and the doors were
closed to reporters, other leaders wondered how their
creaking and vulnerable economies could possibly wield such a weapon. Others stated baldly that they
needed to know how much money countries like Canada and the United States would be willing to pay
to help them make the transition.
''The most powerful, I insist, cannot avoid the
obligation of solidarity with those less favoured,''
said Paraguayan President Luis Angel Gonzalez. That was code for a plea for cash before Paraguay
can prepare to meet the 2005 deadline set for a negotiated deal on a Free Trade Area of the Americas.
Others asked larger countries to treat them as equals, but not before they were given preferential treatment.
''Don't poke sticks into our spokes,'' said Guatemalan
president Alfonso Portillo, thumping on his desk for emphasis.
''The small economies are not the same as the big economies. Just to become the equals of the big brothers,
we will need to be treated accordingly.''
Portillo's solution included a promise from larger
countries not to demand the lowest market prices for
commodities from smaller countries. How that perspective might fit into the framework of a hemispheric
free-trade pact remained a mystery. Hugo Chavez, the firebrand president of Venezuela, scoffed at the
notion of democracy as currently constructed in Latin America.
''If the democracy doesn't provide land, if it's
concentrated in the hands of two per cent of the population,
we can't speak of democracy,'' Chavez said.
There was little surprise on Sunday when the final
declaration from summit leaders reaffirming their
commitment to a hemispheric free-trade pact included an asterisk that represented Chavez's dissent.
The format of the meeting didn't allow for debate or discussion,
so there was no noted reaction from Bush.
White House officials were said to be unhappy that a technical lapse threw open what was supposed to
be a closed-door session.
Check that sentence in bold.
This was set up just like the debates with Al Gore.
It was set up so President Weak & Stupid wouldn't have to answer questions - or charges.
This idiot can't think,
so his handlers put him in formats where he can't speak.
I saw very little of this conference, but the clips shows on CNN and
Fox were always
of Smirky reading something Uncle Dick had written down for him to say.
Smirk doesn't even know the meaning of the words written on the damn paper.
Condi Rice puts everything in phonics so Smirk can mangle it phonetically.
How did we get such a total moron for a president?
America, America, God shed his rage on thee...