Tue, Oct 24, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Paraguayans in a spin about alleged Bush countryside hideaway purchase

THE GUARDIAN , CUIABA, PARAGUAY

Meeting the new couple next door can be anxious business for even the most relaxed home owner. Will they be international drug traffickers? Have they got noisy kids with a penchant for electronic music? As worries go, however, having US President George W. Bush move in next door must come fairly low on the list.

Unless of course you are a resident of northern Paraguay and believe reports in the South American press that he has bought up a 40,470 hectare ranch in your neck of the woods.

The rumors, as yet unconfirmed but which began with the state-run Cuban news agency Prensa Latina, have triggered an outpouring of conspiracy theories, with speculation rife about what Bush's supposed interest in the chaco, a semi-arid lowland in Paraguay's north, might be.

Some have speculated that he might be trying to wrestle control of the Guarani Aquifer, one of the largest water reserves, from the Paraguayans.

Rumors of Bush's supposed forays into South American real estate surfaced during a recent 10-day visit to the country by his daughter, Jenna Bush. Little is known about her trip to Paraguay, although officially she travelled with UNICEF to visit social projects.

Photographers from the Paraguayan newspaper ABC Color tracked her down to one restaurant in Asuncion, where she was seen flanked by 10 security guards, and was also reported to have met Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte and US Ambassador James Cason. Reports in sections of the Paraguayan media suggested she was sent on a family "mission" to tie up the land purchase in the chaco.

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