MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY, DEC. 4 -- President Bush, in the second stop on a five-nation tour of Latin America, today praised Uruguayan President Luis Alberto Lacalle's "bold program" of economic redevelopment and said Uruguay's efforts to deal with its debt problem will pay dividends in the future.

On a visit to tout his trade, debt and investment plan for the region, known as the Enterprise for the Americas Initiative, Bush said he looked forward to completion of a framework agreement on trade between the United States and four neighboring countries here -- Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay -- who are in the process of establishing an open trading zone within their borders.

Bush's initiative envisions an eventual free-trade zone stretching from Canada to the southern tip of Latin America. As a first step, the United States will move forward on a free-trade agreement with Mexico and so-called framework agreements with other countries.

"I don't want this Enterprise {for the Americas} Initiative to be just more rhetoric," Bush said after a meeting with Lacalle, who was the first Latin American president to call him to praise the proposal in June. "We want action... . The climate for this kind of action is so much better today that I think we will be successful to go along the course we've been discussing here."

In October, Uruguay reached agreement with commercial bankers on a plan to restructure its $1.6 billion foreign bank debt. It was the sixth such agreement under the Bush administration's plan to restructure the burdensome Latin American debts under the Brady Plan, named for Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady. The Brady Plan calls for banks to voluntarily forgive parts of their loans to Third World debtor nations while also providing new loans in certain cases.

Although small in actual terms when compared with other nations in Latin America, Uruguay's per capita foreign debt is one of the largest in the region.

Bush's enterprise plan calls for renegotiation of the debt owed to the U.S. government. Once that has been done, the plan calls for future interest payments to be put into a fund that would be used to protect the environment in the countries of the region.

The combination of newly democratic governments in the area and the push by many of the new leaders to open up their economies has persuaded the Bush administration that there is a great opportunity to expand trade significantly in the hemisphere.

Lacalle said the decline of superpower dominance in the world opens up the opportunity for "a whole new time of much more equal relationship between the countries, big and small... ."

Several hundred students demonstrated against Bush's visit outside the Legislative Palace, where the president spoke to a joint session of the Uruguayan Congress. The students carried signs that said in Spanish, "Bush -- murderer of the south" and "In the name of hungry Iraqi and Palestinian children, war against the Yankees."

Bush flew from Montevideo to the southern Atlantic coastal resort town of Punta del Este for a dinner. On Wednesday he will go to Buenos Aires, where the government of President Carlos Menem was mopping up after a military uprising there on Monday.

Bush dismissed the fighting there as a "military-versus-military controversy."