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Security, trade on Bush agenda for Latin America trip

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush depart Thursday from Washington as they begin the first leg of a Latin American trip.
President Bush and first lady Laura Bush depart Thursday from Washington as they begin the first leg of a Latin American trip.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush leaves Thursday on a four-day Latin American trip that will tie together some of his most pressing concerns: regional economics, border security and terrorism.

On the eve of his departure, violence reared its head in Peru, the second stop on the president's itinerary. A car bomb exploded near the U.S. Embassy in the Peruvian capital of Lima, killing nine people and injuring at least 25 others. (Full story)

The president said Thursday morning he won't be intimidated.

"Two-bit terrorists aren't going to prevent me from doing what we need to do, and that is to promote our friendship in the hemisphere," Bush told reporters. "You bet I'm going."

Map: Bush's Latin America itinerary 

Bush will begin his mission in El Paso, Texas, where he'll get a firsthand look at U.S. operations on the border with Mexico. He is also expected to announce a "smart border" agreement with Mexico, aimed at keeping out would-be terrorists while allowing the free flow of legitimate travelers and trade.

The president is considering recommendations from his advisers to consolidate the two federal agencies that handle border issues. (Full story)

Later Thursday, Bush will arrive in Monterrey, Mexico, for the centerpiece of his trip -- the two-day International Conference on Financing for Development. The president will meet there with Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, and he is expected to promote a plan to give billions of dollars in additional U.S. aid to poor countries that pledge to fight corruption.

From there, Bush heads to Peru for a meeting with that country's president, Alejandro Toledo. Bush will be the first sitting U.S. president to visit Peru.

Trade will be the key issue. An agreement that gave Peruvian goods duty-free access into the United States expired in December, having fallen through the cracks in Congress after September 11. Bush is expected to assure Toledo that the agreement will be renewed.

Bush also is scheduled to meet with leaders from Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador.

Before returning Sunday to Washington, Bush will stop in El Salvador for talks with President Francisco Flores and a working lunch with several other Central American leaders.




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