McCain Trip Aimed at Highlighting Latin America in U.S.-Focused Campaign

McCain Trip Aimed at Highlighting Latin America in U.S.-Focused Campaign

BOGOTÁ, Colombia -- While the campaign jet of Sen. John McCain's was en route from Cartagena to Mexico City on July 2, the Colombian military pulled off a daring rescue mission that led to the liberation of 15 hostages, including Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans. The news of the hostage release overshadowed McCain's three-day visit to Colombia and Mexico that aimed to shore up his Hispanic support and underscore his foreign policy experience and national security credentials. Nonetheless, McCain's unusual tour of the region was particularly significant for Colombia, the United States' most important ally in Latin America.

Mexico and Colombia, two countries with high levels of drug-fuelled violence, were apt places for McCain to showcase his experience on security issues. For Republicans, Colombia's evolution from a "failed state" to a stable democracy is a success story, and McCain's trip was a chance to promote that success.

During his visit, McCain reiterated his staunch support for the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement, a stance that reinforces his differences with Obama, who, like many leading Democrats, has expressed serious concerns about the deal. Democratic critics say it would endanger U.S. jobs and are demanding that Colombia first reduce violence against trade union workers. The number of trade unionists killed in Colombia increased by 70 percent in the last year, a trend that will make the passage of the troubled trade bill even more difficult.

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