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McCain Visits Colombia While Obama Encourages National Service

Republican presidential contender John McCain spent much of Wednesday far from the U.S. campaign trail. McCain was in Colombia where he praised the government of President Alvaro Uribe for its drug interdiction efforts, but also urged the government to improve its human rights record. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Senator McCain toured a Colombian port by boat to get a first hand look at the country's efforts to cut down on drug trafficking.

McCain was interviewed in Colombia by ABC's Good Morning America.

"The continued flow of drugs from Colombia through Mexico into the United States is still one of our major challenges to all Americans," said McCain. "And the Mexican government is struggling right now with battles against drug cartels. Colombia continues to make progress, but a large percentage of the amount of cocaine that continues to come into the United States comes from this country."

McCain will also stop in Mexico on his way back to the United States.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee is also emphasizing his commitment to free trade during his Latin American tour. McCain supports a pending free trade agreement between the U.S. and Colombia, which has stalled in the U.S. Congress because of human rights concerns.

McCain also supports the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada and has criticized Democrat Barack Obama for wanting to re-negotiate the trade pact if elected in November.

Obama, meanwhile, was in Colorado Wednesday speaking about the importance of volunteerism and national service.

Obama has proposed expanding government funded national service programs like Americorps inside the United States, as well as a plan to employ military veterans in the rapidly expanding field of renewable energy.

Obama also spoke about how his service programs would have an impact overseas.

"And we are going to grow our foreign service, open consulates that have been shuttered and double the size of the Peace Corps by 2011 to renew our diplomacy," said Obama. "We cannot to continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we have set. We have got to have a civilian national security force that is just as powerful, just as strong, just as well funded."

Obama's speech was the latest in a series of events this week focused on American values. Obama previously touched on patriotism and faith as he seeks to tie his campaign into some of the ideals of American citizenship in time for the July 4 Independence Holiday on Friday.

Political analysts say Obama has been moving steadily toward the middle of the political spectrum in recent weeks as he tries to counter Republican critics who say he is too liberal.