- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2007

Consider the record of Alvaro Uribe, president of Colombia, since his election in 2002. A deal with paramilitary forces has resulted in more than 31,000 fighters surrendering their weapons. By boosting the size and strength of security forces and going after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Mr. Uribe was able to reduce the guerilla’s presence in central Colombia. The country is safer — the annual murder count, on a steady increase before Mr. Uribe took office, has declined by more than one-third — and Colombia is more prosperous. The rate of increase in gross domestic product has gone up. Throughout his tenure, moreover, Mr. Uribe has been a strong U.S. ally in a region without many.

With these positive steps, it’s little surprise that Mr. Uribe enjoys solid approval ratings at home. In Washington earlier this month, however, Mr. Uribe found that neither his success nor his support of the United States could win him so much as a cordial reception on Capitol Hill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, under pressure from interest groups, initially rebuffed requests to meet with Mr. Uribe. She did meet with him, but later issued a press release that did not even mention the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement that Democrats have held up and that Mr. Uribe had traveled to Washington to advance.

Instead, the speaker used the meeting as another opportunity to hit at revelations that members of Mr. Uribe’s government had been involved with paramilitary groups. Sen. Patrick Leahy cited the same as reason for blocking some $55 million in military aid to Colombia last month. The scandal, widely known as “para-politics,” has embarrassed the Uribe government, but, as we’ve argued, is evidence that the once-ubiquitous paramilitary networks are being slowly unraveled, their pervasiveness being brought to light.

Lest anyone not understand the implications of this kind of deplorable conduct, Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos said this week, in rhetoric that bluntly reflects the way Mr. Uribe was treated by Democrats in Washington, that killing the free trade act would “send a message to the eternal enemies of the United States that… this is how America treats its allies.” To right this ship, Democrats need to start working in earnest to pass the trade agreement with Colombia.

This shameful treatment of a strong American ally fits disconcertingly well into a series of reckless foreign-policy initiatives that we’ve seen from Democrats, from Mrs. Pelosi’s “diplomatic mission” to Syria to indifference to the consequences of leaving Iraq prematurely. This kind of unserious foreign-policy judgment puts Democrats squarely on track to return to the level of McGovernite foreign policy.

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