A Conversation With Álvaro Uribe
President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia is in a corner. A staunch U.S. ally in a region where anti-American sentiment is fashionable, Uribe has successfully fought the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which the United States considers a terrorist group, and has combated drug traffickers. But his attempts to secure a free-trade pact with Washington have recently been stymied. Last week, at a World Economic Forum meeting in Cancun, Mexico, Uribe talked with Newsweek-Washington Post's Lally Weymouth.
Q. The U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement was not brought to the floor of the House at the direction of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, essentially killing its chances for success until after the upcoming election. What is your reaction?
A. There is concern in our government, but we cannot lose our optimism. [We have a] long tradition of good relations between our two countries, and we cherish common democratic values. . . . We recognize our problems, but we are working every day, doing our best to overcome them. These circumstances make us optimistic.
Q. Haven't you stuck your neck out to be a good U.S. ally in the war on terror ism and the war on drugs? Are you thinking about alternatives to your strategic alliance with the United States if this treaty does not go through?
A. We have considered that. As for the House's approval of the Free Trade Agreement, the sooner the better. The more they analyze the current situation in Colombia -- the efforts Colombia is making, the progress Colombia has made, the problems Colombia faces -- the more they have to rethink and consider the possibility to approve the Free Trade Agreement.
Q. What would you say to members of the House?
A. I invite them to visit Colombia -- especially Speaker Pelosi. If she comes, she will find problems and progress, but she will see our total determination to overcome these problems.
Q. Are the Colombian people upset by the U.S. action?