McCain campaigns in Mexico, Colombia
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In an unusual trip, Republican candidate John McCain visited Mexico and Colombia, where he spoke about free trade and foreign policy, and pushed Colombian President Alvaro Uribe on human rights issues.
In a nod to critics back home, McCain pressed the Colombian president to make further progress on human rights issues while highlighting the success of efforts under his administration in fighting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), an outlawed leftist guerrilla group.
"I have been a supporter of human rights for my entire life and career. We have discussed this issue with President Uribe," McCain told reporters after the meeting, with the Colombian president standing at his side.
"We will continue to urge progress in that direction. And I believe that progress is being made and I believe that more progress needs to be made."
McCain urged Uribe to continue efforts to free three
Uribe, for his part, thanked McCain and made a positive reference to the
"Thank you, Sen. McCain for all your support of
Obama said in May that his administration would support
When asked whether the two leaders had discussed Obama during their one hour and forty minute long meeting, McCain said no. "The only discussion that I had concerning the presidential campaign was that I believe that that any partisanship ends at the water's edge," he said.
McCain has highlighted Obama's opposition to a free trade agreement with Colombia as an important difference between their respective candidacies. He called for the U.S. Congress to vote on the Colombian deal.
Obama has said he is not opposed to free trade as such. But he, like many Democrats, has argued that Colombia needs to reduce violence and murders of union members before the U.S. Congress votes on the pact.
Colombia sees the U.S. trade deal as central to its efforts to stabilize its commercial relationship with the world's biggest economy and regain the investment grade credit rating it lost as a consequence of its 1999 economic crisis.
The trip has drawn some controversy. The Arizona senator has praised Uribe for chipping away at the FARC, but some have said he needs to press harder on human rights issues.
"We urge you to make protecting and defending Colombian democratic institutions, particularly its institutions of justice, a top priority in your meetings," advocacy group Human Rights Watch said in a letter to McCain.
The trip gives the Republican senator a chance to show off his foreign policy credentials while also focusing on issues important to Hispanic voters.
On Thursday he is scheduled to meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in Mexico City, where trade and immigration will feature on the agenda.
Obama has called for the North American Free Trade Agreement to be renegotiated to improve environmental and labor provisions. He threatened to pull out of the pact, which groups the United States, Mexico and Canada, if necessary to obtain the improvements.
McCain has criticized his opponent's position and used a trip to