US President George Bush has met with his Uruguayan counterpart, Tabare Vazquez, for talks that included ways to improve the lives of Uruguayans at home and in the United States.
After Saturday's meeting in the Uruguayan town of Colonia, Mr. Vazquez said he reminded Mr. Bush of the thousands of Uruguayan citizens living in the United States in pursuit of a better life.
Mr. Bush repeated his call for the US Congress to pass an immigration reform bill. He said the US cannot just expel illegal immigrants, but it also cannot grant them automatic citizenship.
President Bush deflected a question about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez staging an anti-Bush rally in neighboring Argentina on Friday. But Mr. Bush declined to comment on the Venezuelan leader's activities. Instead he said the US practices quiet, effective diplomacy aimed at helping people.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Vazquez also discussed trade issues. Mr. Vazquez has been pressing for Uruguayan merchants to have better access to US markets to sell goods such as beef and textiles. Mr. Bush said he told the Uruguayan president he will seriously consider Uruguay's requests. He said the United States just wants to make sure there is also market access for its own products.
From Uruguay, President Bush heads to Colombia, then Guatemala and Mexico -- all countries with which the United States enjoys friendly relations.
The White House calls his trip a goodwill tour meant to underscore the US commitment to social justice in the Western Hemisphere. But critics say he is trying to counter the growing influence of Venezuela's President Chavez.
Demonstrations also took place in Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay itself. Protesters took to the streets of the capital, Montevideo, Friday, chanting anti-US slogans and burning effigies of the US president.
Earlier Friday, Mr. Bush met with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, after their foreign ministers signed an accord to expand production of sugar cane-based ethanol fuel in Central America and the Caribbean.