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Bush's on Latin America visit from March 8

The White House says President Bush's visit to Latin America stands on its own merit.

world Updated:

White House has said that President George W Bush's visit to Latin America stands on its own merit and is not meant to devalue the importance of the Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

"...The more important thing is, it underscores America's commitment to the region," White House Spokesman Tony Snow said.

"The United States is committed to doing what we can to make life better..." Snow said ahead of the President's address to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Bush begins a weeklong official visit to Latin America on March 8 in a trip that will take him to Brazil, Uriguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico.

"... Have been a number of cases in which that government (Chavez) has tried to intervene in elections, and so far is batting zero. I think it's more important to extend the blessings of democracy throughout the region and make it clear that the United States is committed not only to the prospect of free elections, but also the follow on, so that you can continue to provide hope and opportunity for people who live in democratic nations," he said.

Snow, however refused to comment on a TV Commercial that has lower income Americans thanking Chavez and Venezuela for the low cost heating oil that the country is providing.

Since taking office, Bush has doubled US foreign assistance to Latin America to about USD 1.6 billion a year.

"The United States of America is committed to helping people rise out of poverty," Bush said in an address to an invited audience under the aegis of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

He announced a series of steps that includes visits by Navy Medical Ship 'Comfort' which will make port calls in Belize, Guatemala, Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname.

Its staff will treat 85,000 patients and conduct up to 1,500 surgeries. Other military medical teams will provide medical care through 62 medical readiness training exercises in 14 countries.

A health care professional training centre will be established in Panama to serve all of Central America, training students to be nurses, technicians and health care workers; and Washington will commit USD 75 million over three years to help thousands of young people improve their English and study in the United States.