Big powers ask Uruguay to dance

Why everyone wants to talk to and influence Uruguay.

    Little Uruguay, wedged between the giants of the South American Mercosur trading bloc, has the tango. Most people associate the dance with Argentina, but Uruguay claims its origins. That's the story of this tiny country ... dancing in the shadows of Argentina and Brazil - until now.

    People in Uruguay say they
    started the tango
    The two most powerful leaders in the hemisphere have visited this country of three million people, courting Uruguay's strategic allegiance.

    Political analysist Carlos Pauletti says: "Uruguay does not have much to lose with Mr Bush's visit here or with Mr Lula's visit last week. The worst that can happen is that we're going to stay the same with the world and our neighbours as today."

    The best scenario is a deal from the US to reduce tariffs on exports. 

    One thousdand head of the best cattle fatten at La Constancia, a ranch like hundreds of others in this country, where beef is a symbol of national pride.

    Cattle from La Constancia Ranch

    Farmers, like others here, want to break Argentina and Brazil's hold on the industry by selling their beef to the US, and other markets.

    Carlos Sapelli, a cattle rancher, says: "We have all the potential. We have the land, we have the people who know the business. The thing is, we need the market for more quantity of meat."

    But, for a country whose number one export is beef, increasing trade with its biggest buyer, the US, would boost thelocal economy. but for many here, the US gaining a foothold in the region is not welcomed.

    You can see the animosity scrawled on walls in the capital, Montevideo, which reads: "Fuera Bush!, Get out, George Bush!"

    Graffiti translated as
    "Get out George Bush"
    Protesters walked 200km to the town of Colonia, where George Bush and Tabare Vazquez, the left-leaning president, will discuss trade.

    One protester, Eduardo Lopez, says: "What is on the table, is what kind of country do we want? Bush's presence here is to ratify trade agreements with the US that will break Latin American integration."

    The challenge for Uruguay is to find a balance between greater trade with the US while not upsetting its left-leaning trading partners.

    Like the tango it's a difficult dance to master.


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