Colombian President Meets With Obama. Groups Want Him to Come Clean
By Dolores M. Bernal, NEWS JUNKIE POST
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House today. It’s unclear what the topics of conversation will be, but human rights organizations want Obama to pressure Uribe on his human rights record.
At Friday’s press briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs didn’t disclose to reporters what the conversation between the two dignitaries would be about, but according to an editorial in the Colombian newspaper, Prensa Escrita, Uribe will try to get somewhere with the stalled US-Colombian Free Trade Agreement. He may also give Obama updates or developments on Colombia’s security policy and its current war on the guerrilla groups in the country, such as the FARC.
However, many Colombians see Uribe’s meeting with Obama as another “smooching” opportunity for a man set on winning re-election. Uribe has enjoyed lots of public support in the past, but that has been eroding due to his support for stringent security policies on civilians, such as wiretapping, the use of paramilitary force, and an increase in the government’s defense spending.
Human rights organizations have accused Uribe of not doing anything to quell violence against labor groups. They also accuse him of repressing freedom on expression, especially from those who criticize his administration.
Last Friday, Human Rights Watch sent a letter to President Obama urging him ask Uribe about alleged human rights violations going on in Colombia and that the focus is not just on free trade.
“We hope that you will also take the opportunity to express to President Uribe the importance of acting in accordance with basic democratic and human rights principles. Including respect for the separation of powers and for the role of civil society,” said the organization’s Executive Director Kenneth Roth.
To see a copy of the Human Rights Watch letter to Obama, click here.