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Uribe: Colombia Treated Like Pariah by US Lawmakers

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has strongly criticized U.S. lawmakers for delaying final ratification of a free-trade pact, because of a scandal over alleged government links with illegal right-wing militias.

During a speech in Bogota Friday, Mr. Uribe said it was not acceptable that Washington has approved similar deals with Peru and Panama, while treating Colombia, in his words, "like a pariah."

The Democratic Party-controlled U.S. Congress has refused to approve the deal because of concerns about the scandal, as well as Colombia's human rights record. Several Colombian lawmakers and government officials have been convicted for having ties with the militias, who are accused of drug trafficking and killing civilians and trade unionists.

Mr. Uribe urged U.S. lawmakers "not to be deaf" to his efforts in demobilizing some 31,000 paramilitaries in an effort to end Colombia's 43-year civil war.

Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos said this week that Bogota may have to reconsider its relationship with Washington if the U.S. Congress does not approve the trade pact.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs a key Senate appropriation subcommittee, has temporarily frozen $55 million in military aid to Colombia because of the alleged links between the government and the militias.