The Real News Network: McCain Defends Free Trade With Colombia

July 3, 2008
3:25 PM

CONTACT: The Real News Network
Malvina Jozwik, 416-916-5202

McCain Defends Free Trade With Colombia
July 3 - Republican presidential nominee John McCain began a two-day visit to Colombia on Tuesday. McCain and his wife Cindy met President Alvaro Uribe at the Colombian leader's official retreat. The senator was also accompanied by two of his top supporters, Senators Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman. McCain is a strong supporter of a proposed free trade agreement between the US and Colombia and he planned to promote it during his visit. "The free trade is an important issue, not only for Colombia but I believe for the economy of the world and as you know for the United States economy," McCain said. His Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, opposes the Colombian agreement, which has stalled in the House of Representatives amid concerns about continuing intimidation and violence against labor leaders in the country.

According to the Medellin-based Escuela Nacional Sindical, a labor research institute, more than 2500 trade unionists have been killed in Colombia since 1986, including 39 murdered in 2007 and 31 so far this year. More than 400 of these killings have come during President Uribe's administration. Before his departure, McCain had been urged by human rights and labor groups to take a strong stand on Uribe's human rights record. John Sweeny, President of the AFL CIO, said: "Hundreds of trade unionists have been systematically murdered, tortured, kidnapped and threatened by paramilitary organizations during the tenure of President Alvaro Uribe. Yet Sen. McCain will tout the supposed benefits of the proposed U.S.-Colombia [Free Trade Agreement] in the resort city of Cartagena, Colombia, while ignoring the real threats that workers in Colombia face every day."

McCain also had meetings with other government officials and business leaders and a tour of a naval base before departing for Mexico in the evening. Some say that the visit by McCain, Graham and Lieberman could be about more than trade agreements.

Forrest Hylton comments that visiting Columbia and Mexico is logical since both are "the anchors of US imperial power in Latin America". He believes that for McCain and Álvaro Uribe, "there is really no clear separation between issues of free trade and the militarization of politics both within the country and within the region". McCain positions himself as the man who will "retake Latin America, which has been, quote-unquote, "lost" by the Bush administration." The US "has been cut out of the diplomatic loop in the region" so the sensible thing to do is to get back into this loop by arranging meetings with various Presidents of South America. "But no, McCain chooses to go to the country that the United States is supporting most heavily in terms of military and political commitments," which can undoubtedly send a message to Hugo Chavez.

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