ANCHORENA PARK, Uruguay – U.S. President George W. Bush said Saturday the FBI has addressed the problems that led to illegal prying into personal information on people in the U.S., but "there's more work to be done."
Bush, at a news conference after meeting with Uruguay's president, said he was briefed last week on the report from the Justice Department's internal watchdog that disclosed the FBI's transgressions involving a subpoena known as national security letters.
"My question is, `What are you going to do solve the problem and how fast can you get it solved?"' the president said.
The president noted that while the inspector general's report "justly made issue of FBI shortfalls, (it) also made clear that these letters were important to the security of the United States."
The report found that FBI agents or lawyers improperly used the letters, administrative subpoenas allowed under the USA Patriot Act, to ask businesses to turn over personal data on customers.
The news conference with Uruguay's president Tabare Vazquez was dominated by questions about Bush's rivalry with Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez.
Bush is being shadowed on his five-nation Latin American trek by Chavez. The leftist firebrand blames U.S.-style capitalism for Latin America's poverty and is issuing taunts such as "gringo go home" at every turn.
Bush refused to answer a question about why he will not acknowledge Chavez by name. Instead, Bush focused on trying to spread a message of U.S. compassion for the region.
"My message to the people in our neighborhood is that we care about the human condition and that we believe the human condition can be improved in a variety of ways," the president said.
Bush's trip includes stops in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico. He said the visits show his desire to work together. "I would call our diplomacy quiet and effective diplomacy," he said.
Bush also was asked about Chavez the day before in Brazil and answered in the same fashion.
Bush took a nearly one-hour helicopter ride from the capital, Montevideo, to this national park, which is Uruguay's equivalent to the U.S. presidential retreat at Camp David, Md.
Bush and Vazquez met at the Estancia Anchorena, appearing before reporters afterward under an open tent.
Vazquez said he wanted to expand trade with the United States and increase scientific, technical and cultural exchanges. The goal, he said, is "a better standard of living for our people."
Bush said he talked with the president about the potential of ethanol as an alternate fuel. He praised Vazquez's efforts, saying Uruguay's economy was growing at an estimated rate of 7 percent.
Bush said Vazquez pressed for a more liberal immigration policy in the United States. Bush said he would work for a "compassionate and rationale immigration law" that recognizes the United States cannot grant automatic citizenship to undocumented immigrants or "kick people out."
Vazquez is a left-of-center politician who shares a commitment to democracy and embraces free markets. Uruguay, overshadowed by its larger neighbors, Argentina and Brazil, wants to sell more beef and textiles to the United States, its biggest trade partner for two of the past three years.
The United States recently signed an agreement with Uruguay that could lay the groundwork for a free trade deal. But that could be a tricky move for Uruguay, which is part of a South American trade bloc that frowns on bilateral side deals outside the regional trade group.