“Uribe, in my view, is a great hero and has been an enormously successful president of Colombia,” Gates told reporters who were traveling with him.
Gates is in Colombia to talk with Uribe and Colombia’s Defense Minister Gabriel Silva about “progress in the offensive against the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia [sic] and other paramilitary groups,” an article on the Defense Department’s website said. Also on the agenda is the bilateral pact that allows the Americans to use Colombian military bases and airports for military operations.
The Defense Secretary praised Colombia’s successes against leftist rebels and drug traffickers and said Colombia’s experience with national security issues could be used in other countries like Mexico and Peru.
“They face similar types of problems with insurgents and narcotics and crime, so figuring out how we can further help them in their own efforts and also in their cooperation with one another is an important opportunity,” Gates told reporters traveling with him.
While Uribe is in his last months as Colombian president after eight years in power, “the key … will be to consolidate the achievements, and particularly our partnership, on an enduring basis so that this relationship continues to thrive and grow after President Uribe leaves office.”
Colombians will vote for a new president on May 30. Uribe is not standing for office again, because was banned by the Constitutional Court from changing the constitution to allow himself to run for a third term.