President Obama and Latin American Leaders

By April 20, 2009Trade

With all the fuss about Venezuela’s caudillo Hugo Chavez greeting to President Obama at the Summit of the Americas, it’s worth noting that Colombia’s president, a believer in democracy and free markets, also met with President Obama. From Bloomberg:

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said he talked with Obama at the summit about a U.S. trade agreement that has been stalled by Obama’s fellow Democrats in Congress and the future of Plan Colombia, the country’s anti-narcotics program funded with more than $600 million a year in U.S. aid.

“We found a great willingness to advance our bilateral agenda,” Uribe said April 18.

And President Obama mentioned Presidente Uribe in passing in his statement and news conference.

So that was good. Was there more? Not that we saw in an admittedly undisciplined weekend review of the news, at least in the U.S.-based media.

This Colombian English-language website, Colombian Reports, offered more detail in the column, “Uribe’s unplanned power lunch with Obama,” which notes that President Obama eschewed all bilateral meetings.

Uribe seemed to have lost his chance for a one-on-one and rather ended up scheduled to meet with Obama at the same time as the other South American presidents. Once again, Chávez took the spotlight while Uribe sat calmly.

But Colombia and the United States had a thing or two to discuss (think Plan Colombia, Free Trade Agreement, still being BFFs). Uribe, in what only seems to be the most overt foreign policy expression of his paisa drive, ended up sitting right next to Obama during a lunch amongst all of the nations’ leaders.

By the end of a 45-minute one-on-one conversation, Uribe had gotten what he wanted. He received his first invitation to Washington, effective immediately, and as if that weren’t enough, he got Obama to promise to visit Colombia.

Now we’re talking.

One hopes more than even talking.

UPDATE (11:45 a.m.): Yes, indeed. After the NAM’s international folks reported the weekend saw significant developments vis a vis Colombia, we went back and found this report: “Obama Tells Official to Resolve Colombian Trade-Pact Obstacles“: “President Barack Obama has ordered his top trade official to work with Colombia to resolve obstacles preventing completion a U.S. free-trade agreement with the South American country.” So that’s good and good.

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