March 29, 2006

Cancun in security lockdown for Bush visit

By Greg Brosnan

CANCUN, Mexico (Reuters) - Mexican police in full body
armor and presidential guards with sniffer dogs mingled with
tourists in bikinis in Cancun on Wednesday in a big security
operation for visiting U.S. President George W. Bush.

Ships were forbidden from coming within a nautical mile of
the white sandy shores of Cancun's luxury hotel zone where Bush
will meet Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime
Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday and Friday.

Despite an increase in anti-U.S. feeling in Latin America
in recent years, there were few signs of protesters in Cancun,
which is far from major Mexican cities and too expensive for
most Mexicans to stay in.

The resort's airport bristled with police and members of a
Mexican military presidential security unit, some leading
sniffer dogs through the building.

On the beach, U.S. college spring breakers in brightly
colored bikinis and shorts splashed in the waves as black-clad
Mexican police in wide-brimmed sun hats watched on, the sound
of their walkie-talkies cracking over the noise of breakers.

Bush and Fox will discuss the U.S. Senate's attempts to
reform immigration laws, an issue closely watched in Mexico
where many have relatives and friends living in the United

The U.S. president is also going to talk to Harper about a
trade dispute over Canadian softwood lumber exports to the
United States. Bush will visit the Mayan archeological site of
Chichen Itza, near Cancun, on Thursday morning.

Cancun was the scene of violent protests against a World
Trade Organization summit in 2003 and police were talking no
chances this time.

Scores of gray-clad federal police, many dressed in full
plastic body armor and carrying assault rifles, guarded road
blocks at both approaches to the long strip of hotels,
searching cars and trucks.

"They have no right to come here and close down our city,"
said street musician Sandy Giovanni, Mexican, 34, who was
banned from entering the hotel zone.