|Uribe confronted by U.S. human rights activists|
Uribe meets former U.S. hostages
Bush and Uribe speak in Washington
President Bush and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe are renewing their
push for U.S. Congress to approve a free-trade deal before lawmakers leave
town to campaign for re-election.
Bush was meeting with Uribe on Saturday and the two leaders planned
to make a joint statement after their talks. In the evening, the White
House was hosting a dinner for the Colombian leader.
Democratic say they are delaying votes on trade deals involving
Colombia, Panama and South Korea until the Bush administration resolves
questions about the impact on U.S. jobs and other issues. But time is
running out on the legislative calendar.
In recent months, the
president has tried new ways to bolster his free-trade agenda. In May,
a concrete mixer, crates of cauliflower, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle
and chunks of cheese were displayed on the White House lawn as examples
of a lopsided tariff structure the U.S. has with those three countries.
White House event in July was billed as a celebration of the day in
1810 when Colombia declared its independence from Spain, but the main
message was trade.
Union leaders are not sold on the plan.
Friday, the Teamsters, which represents 1.4 million workers, protested
Uribe’s visit, saying he was trying to promote a trade deal that
threatens American jobs. The Teamsters and members of other unions and
Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch held signs and passed out fliers in
front of the National Press Building.
Uribe sought to play down
the impact on U.S. jobs. He said if the free-trade deal were approved,
Colombia would not dramatically increase its exports to the United
States right away.
“The main economic result could be the
increase in investments in our country, and the more we increase legal
investments in our country, the less difficult our task to defeat
terrorists groups, to defeat illegal drugs,” Uribe said Friday at the
Brookings Institution, a think tank.
With little hope the
Colombian deal will be approved before Congress recesses for the
November elections, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said that if there is a
lame-duck session after the elections, lawmakers could ratify the
“In light of recent divisive statements and rash
actions by some Latin American leaders, ratification of the agreement
would also send a strong signal to the region that the United States
stands by its friends,” said Lugar, top Republican on the Senate
Foreign Relations Committee.
Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales,
expelled the U.S. ambassador this month, accusing the diplomat of
conspiring to oust him. Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chavez, who claims
the U.S. was behind a failed 2002 coup against him, quickly followed
suit. “That’s enough … from you, Yankees,” Chavez said, using a
barnyard expletive. (AP)