Colombian President Álvaro Uribe has just made it into a very exclusive list. He is one
of the very few in the face of the planet that has had an actual
conversation with Sarah Palin since the Alaskan governor became John
McCain’s vice-presidential pick.
Seeing as Gov. Palin has been kept off-bounds for most reporters, and does not even answer questions from audience members at her campaign rallies, a conversation with her is nothing short from exclusive.
Yet, there they were: Uribe and Palin sitting side by side in New York. Gov. Palin, carrying the weight of having no foreign policy experience at all, and President Uribe, probably just glad to get the photo op.
For any Colombian living in the United States and wondering how the outcome of the presidential election will affect Colombia’s standing in the international realm, the question remains – what could the two of them have talked about for half an hour?
Did Uribe, with his Paisa-infused English accent ask Palin what she knew about Colombia? Did Palin joke about how warm Colombia must be in comparison to Alaska? How do a one-term Alaskan governor and a two-term Colombian president break the ice?
“Governor, have you tried empanadas?” seems to be what Uribe asked before introducing Palin to beef empanadas. Beef empanadas sound better than moose burgers, but for Palin, the jury may still be deliberating.
In terms of the conversation, Gov. Palin was there to be able to claim that she had indeed met with foreign leaders. Uribe was the second one she had ever met, only preceded by the Afghan president.
Still, at a time in which Gov. Palin is being criticized by the American media for being too scripted, it seemed it was President Uribe who stayed in message. He took advantage of the opportunity to discuss the Free Trade Agreement with Palin: superfluous, really, when McCain had already been to Colombia, and keeps saying he supports the treaty every time he campaigns in Florida.
Nonetheless, just as quickly as she came in, thirty minutes later, and after having tried beef empanadas, Palin left – hopefully a little more knowledgeable about Colombia, and with foreign policy bragging rights and a newly found love for ají y limón.
For Uribe, on the other hand, the public relations opportunity did not make up for the fact that, in terms of diplomatic efforts and his own reputation, he didn’t gain nearly as much as Palin, if anything at all.
The Free Trade Agreement won’t be voted on until after the new U.S. President is elected. Regardless of the outcome of the election, the road to the treaty’s implementation is rocky ahead. If Obama wins, the treaty might never even been voted on, and if McCain wins, he will still have to fight against the Democratic majority in Congress to get it approved. But if McCain wins, at least, Vice-president Palin will remember that nice guy who made her try those beef patties. “What were those called again?”
Author Felipe Estefan is Colombian and studies media and international relations at Syracuse University in New York.