- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2008


The U.S. ambassador to Canada is trying to reassure Canadian leaders that the next American president will continue promoting the close ties that have made the relationship between the two countries one of the strongest in the world.

Ambassador David H. Wilkins said the U.S. presidential election was among the issues he discussed with officials recently at the Western Premiers’ Conference in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

“I assured these leaders that no matter who wins the next election, I remain confident the next occupant of the White House will understand and appreciate the deep ties of trade, commerce and friendship that bind our countries together and will act accordingly to protect and grow this partnership,” he said on his blog, “Ambassador’s Journal,” on the U.S. Embassy’s Web site (https://canada.usembassy.gov).

Some Canadian officials have been nervous about comments by Sen. Barack Obama. The presumptive Democratic presidential candidate has pledged to withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement unless the treaty is renegotiated to include stronger protection for U.S. workers.

Sen. John McCain, his Republican rival, supports NAFTA and other free-trade agreements.

The United States and Canada have the world’s most lucrative cross-border trade with more than $1 billion in business a day. Canada also is the largest export market for 39 states, and more than 200 million Americans and Canadians cross the border every year, mostly for business and vacations.


The Bolivian ambassador Tuesday demanded to know whether the United States granted political asylum to a former defense minister Bolivia accuses of ordering a violent assault against opponents of the previous government five years ago.

told Reuters news agency he sent a diplomatic note to the State Department after Carlos Sanchez Berzain, now living in Miami, told a Bolivian radio station last week that a U.S. court granted his asylum request.

“This type of incident obviously complicates relations between Bolivia and the U.S.,” Mr. Guzman said. “It darkens them. It’s not what we seek.”

Diplomatic relations between the two countries have been tense sincePresident Evo Moralestook office two years ago and aligned himself with Hugo Chavez, the anti-American president of Venezuela.

Mr. Sanchez Berzain’s claim of asylum sparked violent demonstrations Monday in the Bolivian capital, La Paz. Thousands of protesters tried to storm the U.S. Embassy, but police repulsed them with tear gas.

In his radio interview, the former defense minister said he appealed for asylum because he feared he would not get a fair trial in Bolivia. He also accused Mr. Morales of having links to cocaine smugglers.

In La Paz, U.S. Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg told reporters that Bolivia had not filed an extradition request. He would not comment on whether Mr. Sanchez Berzain had received asylum.

“It’s not a political matter. It’s a judicial matter, and we have to respect the independent judicial branch of the United States, he said.

Mr. Sanchez Berzain and the former president, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, fled to the United States in 2003 during a time of political upheaval.

The Bolivian government also accuses Mr. Sanchez de Lozada of unleashing the military against anti-government demonstrators in an assault that caused the deaths of 60 protesters and injuries to hundreds of others.

c @washingtontimes.com.

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