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Peru Slights Chavez As It Ratifies U.S. Trade Deal

Peru moved quickly this week on its free-trade agreement (FTA) with the U.S., as Peru's Congress overwhelmingly ratified it and its president quickly signed it into law. Up next is approval by the U.S. Congress.

Reuters cited the Peruvian approval of the FTA as a blow for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his leftist allies, Cuba and Bolivia, which want Latin America to turn away from the U.S. and join an alternative regional pact. In Peru's June presidential election, Chavez supported a nationalist who pledged not to sign the FTA. Chavez says he intends to cut ties with Peru when President-elect Alan Garcia takes office July 28.

The ratification vote wasn't without drama, as thousands, shouting "Down with the U.S.," protested outside; and newly elected opposition lawmakers, who will take their seats in Peru's next Congress on July 28, burst into the official meeting and interrupted debate for half an hour.
-- Joe Roybal