BOGOTÁ, Colombia -- Barack Obama's election as U.S. president last November signaled a defeat not only for his Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, but also for the outgoing Bush administration's strongest hemispheric ally, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe.
When George W. Bush left office, Uribe lost his strongest ally for the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, whose ratification is one of Uribe's key foreign policy goals. Uribe will now travel to Washington next Monday, June 29, to try to wrench a firm commitment from President Obama to push the deal through a hostile Congress. But Colombia's continued human rights violations and an increasingly complicated constitutional bid for re-election promise to undermine Uribe's credibility.
Obama has warmed up to Uribe since his days on the campaign trail, when he characterized the U.S.-Colombia FTA as "a mockery of the very labor protections that we have insisted be included in these kinds of agreements." Overshadowed by the coverage of Obama's historic handshake with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez at the Summit of the Americas last April was the fact that Uribe sat next to Obama at the summit's heads-of-state lunch.