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Chávez leads 'anti-imperialist' rally in Buenos Aires

BUENOS AIRES -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez launched another verbal assault on President Bush last night as he led about 20,000 supporters in an anti-American rally, calling the US leader a "political cadaver" and blasting his policies as "imperialist."

"Gringo go Home!" Chávez shouted to raucous applause at a crowded soccer stadium in the Argentine capital. He spoke as Bush was arriving in neighboring Uruguay as part of a Latin America tour.

Chávez said he didn't come to Buenos Aires to "sabotage" Bush's visit and called the timing a coincidence.

"The US president today is a true political cadaver. . . . In a very short time he will be converted into cosmic dust and disappear from the stage," Chávez said, alluding to Bush's waning years in office.

In Uruguay, a group of anti-American demonstrators scuffled with bystanders and shattered windows at an American fast-food restaurant. The incident underscored tensions as Bush arrived last night and was driven to his hotel in a bulletproof limousine.

"Exterminate the Empire!" a masked woman spray-painted on a business facade as some rocks flew in Montevideo. There was no report of any serious injuries as the visit opened with Uruguay's first leftist president, Tabare Vazquez, who has increasingly sought greater trade with Washington.

In Buenos Aires, Chávez said Bush's five-nation swing would fail to improve America's image and dismissed his pledges of US aid as a cynical attempt to "confuse" Latin Americans.

"I believe the chief objective of the Bush trip is to try to scrub clean the face of the empire in Latin America. But it's too late," Chávez said on Argentine state television. "It seems he's just now discovered that poverty exists in the region."

During Bush's first stop in Sao Paulo, Brazil, riot police fired tear gas and clubbed some protesters after more than 6,000 people held a largely peaceful protest march Thursday. Brazil's streets were calmer yesterday, though 150 protesters burned a Bush effigy with a swastika on its shirt and a Hitler mustache penciled on its face.

Police put down violent protests in Colombia in advance of Bush's visit there.