WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush likens George Washington, whom Americans call the father of their country, and Simon Bolivar, the South American independence hero who has become the symbol of the region's anti-U.S. movement.
In a speech to members of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Monday, ahead of his trip to Latin America this week, Bush said Bolivar "is often compared" to Washington.
"Like Washington, he was a general who fought for the right of his people to govern themselves," he said.
He added, "Like Washington, he succeeded in defeating a much stronger colonial power; and like Washington, he belongs to all of us who love liberty."
Bush has referred to Washington as "the first George W," a play on the sobriquet by which Americans refer to Bush.
Bolivar, however, currently is a symbol of the anti-American populist movement headed by President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, an outspoken critic of Bush.
Chavez has named his so-called "Bolivarian" revolution after the 19th century independence hero. The Venezuelan leader often presents his closest allies and honored visitors with replicas of the sword Bolivar wielded almost 200 years ago against Spanish colonial powers.
In his speech Monday, Bush also said neither Bolivar nor Washington had children.
He quoted a Latin American diplomat as telling him: "Neither Washington nor Bolivar was destined to have children of their own, so that we Americans might call ourselves their children." he said.
Bush begins a six-day trip to Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico on Thursday. The trip follows criticism he has ignored Latin America, which has seen a surge in leftist governments in recent years.