- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2008

‘TRUE STATESMANSHIP’

Sen. Barack Obama could show “true statesmanship” by visiting Colombia to recognize the heroic rescue of American hostages held by communist rebels and by breaking with congressional Democrats and endorsing a free-trade agreement with Washington’s strongest South American ally, according to a former ambassador from Costa Rica.

The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee opposes the free-trade agreement, which would remove tariffs on U.S. exports to Colombia, because, he claims, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has failed to stop right-wing paramilitary forces from killing union leaders.

However, Mr. Uribe has cut violence against union activists to a fraction of the number of killings that occurred before he took office in 2002. Last year, 26 union leaders were killed, down from the high of 196 five years ago, according to Colombia’s official statistics.

“Unfortunately, American labor unions, a bulwark of the Democratic Party, are strongly opposed to the free-trade pact,” Ambassador Jaime Daremblum wrote in a recent review of Democratic attitudes toward Colombia.

Mr. Daremblum, Costa Rica’s ambassador in Washington from 1998 to 2004, urged Mr. Obama to break with the Democratic leadership and visit Colombia, as his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, did earlier this month when Colombian officials announced the rescue of 15 hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The hostages included three Americans held since 2003.

“Obama has an opportunity here. Throughout Latin America, people of all ages are excited about this campaign,” Mr. Daremblum wrote.

“If he were to visit Colombia and meet with Uribe, that would signal his strong commitment to the region and his appreciation for all that the Colombian president has achieved. Indeed, if Obama saw the results on the ground in Colombia, he would be less inclined to denounce Uribe over human rights.”

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Tuesday

Declan Ganley, founder of the Libertas Institute, which successfully campaigned against the European Union treaty in a June referendum in Ireland. He addresses the Heritage Foundation.

Wednesday

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, a member of the European Parliament from Germany’s Free Democratic Party, who addresses the Friedrich Naumann Foundation on the future of the European Union after Irish voters rejected the proposed EU treaty.

Anastasia Crickley of Ireland, representative on Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination Against Christians and other Religions of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. She testifies before the congressional Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe at 11 a.m. in Room B-318 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy, chairman of the physics department at Pakistan’s Quaid-e-Azam University, who briefs the Middle East Institute on the possibility of a Taliban victory in Afghanistan.

Richard Pomfret, an economics professor at Australia’s University of Adelaide, who addresses the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University about the future of Turkmenistan’s energy resources.

Thursday

Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb of Finland, who meets Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns and addresses the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace about the future of the European Union.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.