LIMA, Peru – Thousands of police and military personnel stood guard and scuttled anti-American demonstrations Saturday as President Bush made a historic visit here three days after a deadly bombing near the U.S. Embassy.
Tanks, armored cars and water cannon trucks prowled the Peruvian capital while some 7,000 riot police and troops in camouflage stood with machine guns to deter another attack.
The 17-hour visit opened with scattered protests and riot police used tear gas in one brief clash to scatter about 100 demonstrators, then deployed a water cannon truck hours later to squelch a second demonstration of about the same size.
Helmeted riot police, standing behind tall plastic shields, unleashed tear gas on a crowd just hours before Bush's arrival and scattered the protesters quickly.
While Bush was meeting Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo at the government palace, six blocks away, authorities deployed riot squads alongside the water cannon truck to disperse a second wave of anti-American demonstrators.
The truck circled the historic downtown Plaza de San Martin, spraying 30-foot plumes of water to break up the protest. Riot police in squads of 10 swept over the square.
Some disagreed with the police crackdown. "I think it's good to protest against President Bush," said Armando Baldeon, an ice cream vendor who criticized Bush's war on terrorism.
Earlier, Peruvian Interior Minister Fernando Rospligiosi warned against unruly protests, saying "they would pay the consequences if they incite violence."
Nevertheless, demonstrators chanted "Bush ... get out of Peru!" before they were sent running by clouds of tear gas. "We don't want to be a North American colony! Down with Yankee imperialism!"
Police apprehended nine demonstrators, including six who had carried flags bearing the rainbow colors associated with the Inca empire.
Half of Peru's 26 million people live on less than $2 a day, the country is slogging through a four-year economic slowdown and many are skeptical that sudden U.S. attention will change their lot in life.
"We've come to oppose the presence of Bush here," said Hipolito Bolivar, who said the American leader was "persona non grata" in poor countries.
Elsewhere in downtown Lima, a small group of protesters erected a series of white sheets painted with caricatures of Bush and Uncle Sam. It included a crude rendering of a tank firing a projectile and the words, "United States, leading terrorists of the world!"
Others in Lima had high hopes that Bush's talk of stimulating trade with Andean region countries would help create jobs in Peru, where half of the population of 26 million lives in poverty.
Maria Jose Santos, selling sweet cakes on a street near downtown, said she hoped the visit would help Peru recover from its 4-year-old economic slump.
"Peru needs help. We are a poor country," she said.
The Interior Minister barred public gatherings during the visit, citing security precautions after the bombing attack on an outdoor mall that shattered shopfront windows and left bodies in the streets. The fortress-like embassy was not damaged and no Americans were among the dead or 30 injured. Some of those injured, Toledo told Bush over dinner Saturday, "are now on the brink of death."
The car bombing that claimed nine lives, all Peruvians, was the worst terror attack in Peru in a half decade and prompted Peruvian authorities to place the troops on "red alert."