MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) -- President Bush is offering to help Peru with both trade and terrorists as he makes an unprecedented visit to that South American nation days after a terrorist attack outside the U.S. Embassy there.
Armored cars, water cannon trucks and 7,000 rifle-armed security forces in the streets of downtown Lima were on alert for Bush's Saturday afternoon arrival in a Peruvian capital shaken by the car bombing that killed nine people.
The first U.S. president ever to visit Peru, Bush was opening talks with President Alejandro Toledo and other Andean nation presidents on the heels of a U.N. economic summit in northern Mexico.
At a news conference Friday night, Bush left open the possibility of new military aid for Peru following the car bombing on Wednesday.
"We're going to analyze all options available to help Peru," Bush said.
But, he added, the United States could do even better for Peru by first pushing stalled trade legislation for Andean nations through the Senate.
With his weekly radio address, Bush also made his trade argument to Americans back home.
"Prosperity in our hemisphere will produce profound benefits for all our countries," Bush said in the broadcast.
"The United States is strongly committed to helping build an entire hemisphere that lives in liberty and trades in freedom."
Following the nearly six-hour flight from Mexico, Bush was sitting down with Toledo for closed-door talks on terrorism and other subjects.
Toledo had left the U.N. summit early to fly home after the car bombing. Addressing Congress late Friday, he announced measures to rebuild Peru's weakened intelligence services and doubled the Interior Ministry's anti-terrorism budget. He also offered a $1 million reward for information leading to the masterminds of Wednesday's attack.
The Shining Path, a Maoist rebel movement thought to be petering out, is believed to be responsible.
"We will not allow a return to violence," Toledo said, noting leftist groups such as the Shining Path nearly brought the state to its knees in the 1980s and early '90s.
The case of Lori Berenson, an American from New York imprisoned in Peru for terrorism, is on the list of Bush's talking points for his meeting with Toledo, but there is no guarantee the topic will come up, senior administration officials said.
Bush primarily hoped to use the visit to give Toledo a political boost in the face of his tumbling public approval ratings and daily protests, administration officials said. Bush was also eager to prod along the steps toward democratic reform that Toledo has taken in his eight months as president.
After the car bombing, Toledo successfully appealed to major opposition groups to drop plans for protests surrounding Bush's visit.
Some who peacefully marched downtown Friday insisted Bush should not yet laud Peru for its rejuvenated democracy because half of the 26 million Peruvians still live in poverty.
"We are not going to have democracy until we have work," shouted Alvaro Cole, a laid-off worker who took part in the protest.
But political columnist Mirko Lauer disagreed, saying Peru was now bidding to rebuild democratic institutions eroded by former President Alberto Fujimori's iron-grip on power.
Lauer said Peru was being singled out as a good neighbor in an increasingly troubled hemisphere.
"The United States needs allies in the war on terrorism. The United States needs friends in its own backyard," Lauer said.
Amid the hoopla of Bush's arrival, heralded by a 21-gun salute at the Lima airport, Foreign Minister Diego Garcia-Sayan tried to deflate any "out-of-proportion" expectations Peruvians may hold.
"The arrival of President Bush is not the arrival of the Three Wise Men or Santa Claus," said Garcia-Sayan.
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