U.S. President George Bush is making a renewed push for Congressional
approval of a pending free trade agreement with Colombia. VOA's Paula
Wolfson reports he is urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi to allow a vote in
the House of Representatives.
At a White House event showcasing
ties between the Colombian and American people, President Bush made one
of his strongest appeals to date for passage of the free trade deal
"To demonstrate America's good faith, to stand by
our strong friend, to send a clear signal that we appreciate our ally,
the United States Congress must approve this free trade agreement," he
Mr. Bush said it will open up a major duty-free market to
American goods, noting that exports remain one of the bright spots in
the uncertain U.S. economy.
But he made clear that national
security reasons are equally if not more important. He said under
President Alvaro Uribe, Colombia is fighting drugs, crime and terror.
"President Uribe has stood strong against tyranny and terror. He has
done everything he has asked and more. He has told members of Congress
that approving this agreement is the most important step that America
can take to show its support for Colombia," he said.
made specific mention of the recent rescue by the Colombian military of
hostages that had been held for years by members of the leftist rebel
group known as the FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia,
which the United States considers to be a terrorist organization. He
noted that on Sunday, more than a million Colombians marched in the
nation's streets to denounce the FARC and demand the release of
"They chanted a simple but powerful message: Libertad! That means freedom," Mr. Bush said.
Party leaders in the House have put off formal consideration of the
free trade agreement because of concerns about the Colombian
government's human rights record.
But the White House contends
conditions have significantly improved, that the Colombian justice
system has been reformed and attacks on labor unionists have
The president has also called on
Congress to schedule votes on pending free trade pacts with Panama and
South Korea. But he has spoken out more frequently on the deal with
Colombia, indicating winning approval for this agreement is a high
priority for the final months of his administration.