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Bush heads home after Latin swing

Bush headed back to Washington after meeting with Flores on Sunday.  

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (CNN) -- President Bush wrapped up his historic Latin American tour Sunday, praising Salvadoran President Francisco Flores for transforming his nation into "one of the bright lights" of the region.

At a press conference in the Central American country's capital, Bush said El Salvador has emerged from civil war that ravaged the country more than a decade ago as a nation committed to democracy and economic reform.

"It is one of the freest and strongest and most stable countries in the hemisphere," Bush said. "The United States considers El Salvador a close friend and ally."

Bush concluded his four-day visit to Latin America -- and one-day stop in El Salvador -- by boarding Air Force One for Washington on Sunday afternoon.

The trip was highlighted by the president's announcement of an additional $5 billion in aid for poor countries at a U.N. conference in Mexico and a firm stance against terrorism and illegal drug trafficking in Peru.

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As he did in his other two stops, Bush on Sunday stressed the importance of trade -- a sentiment echoed by his Salvadoran counterpart.

"Trade means jobs," Bush said. "Trade means people who want to work are more likely to find work in both countries."

The United States and El Salvador trade $4 billion worth of goods and services each year, Bush said. In addition, Salvadorans living in the United States annually send another $2 billion home.

Flores said that in the long run trade was more important to his country than the infusion of cash from expatriates.

"Many women in rural areas have opportunities to work today thanks to that openness of the United States," he said. "It is producing a dramatic change throughout rural areas."

Bush said he hoped Congress would pass a free-trade pact that would unite the nations of the western hemisphere and boost their economies.

Flores has supported such an agreement, even suggesting that some countries be allowed to enter the pact early if they meet requirements before a target date.


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