John McCain, with an entourage including senators Joe Lieberman, Lindsay Graham, and other sweaty white men in summer colors arrived in Colombia today to, among other things, take a ride in a drug interdiction ship with wife Cindy. Said McCain: “We have a long way to go to stem the flow of drugs into the United States of America, [but] the progress that I’ve seen since previous visits here has been substantial and positive.’’ The recent report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, however, found a huge leap in coca cultivation (different from the interdiction McCain was talking about, but you see where I'm going with this, right?) from 78,000 hectares [193,000 acres] to 99,000 hectares [245,000 acres] - despite fumigation and manual eradication totaling 219,512 hectares [542,426 acres]. Oh well.
Some recommendation for McCain on ways to signal US for support Colombian institutionality, and respect for human rights from the Center for International Policy here, although McCain seems more bent on getting the conservative Latino vote - and a lot of the US-Colombians, believe me, are some real zealots for Uribe.
That this gambit with the hostages (an incredible bit of intelligence work and infiltration involved in scooby-dooing the FARC commander to get into an army chopper with 15 hostages under false pretenses) seems to have paid off is great (and lucky - previous rescue operations have resulted in dead hostages) news for Igrid, the three US contractors, and the 12 Colombian military and police hostages who have apparently been freed, but it's definitely good news for Uribe, who is clearly itching to run for a third term and will probably enjoy even higher popularity after this liberation. The irritating presence of McCain in the country through all of this makes one wonder how Uribe's vistory will reflect on McCain's candidacy and on the Free Trade Agreement he, and Uribe, support.