U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Barbados for meetings with leaders of the Caribbean regional grouping, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). She arrived from Bogota, where she pledged continued U.S. support for Colombia.
Outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe told the secretary his government is "definitively winning" its years-long struggle against left-wing insurgents and drug gangs and that there was no better proof than Clinton's visit, itself.
The secretary of state made an overnight stay in the once violence-ridden Colombian capital and met her husband, the former president, in Bogota on separate business, for dinner with friends at a downtown restaurant.
At a joint media event with the secretary of state, Mr. Uribe said Colombia is "not yet a paradise" but that the long-troubled country is "gaining ground."
"The best P.R. [public relations] for confidence in Colombia is that last night the madame secretary of state of the United States and the president, Bill Clinton, were in a restaurant in Bogota with complete peace of mind, enjoying this beautiful city and its good restaurants," he said. "Some years ago, because of terrorism, this would have been unthinkable."
For her part, Clinton reaffirmed the Obama administration's support for the massive American aid program, Plan Colombia, begun at the end of her husband's administration.
The United States has since provided the South American state with some $6 billion in mostly-military U.S. assistance. Clinton says there is no doubt about the bipartisan commitment in Washington to continued Colombia aid.
"We are very gratified by what has been accomplished. But the president and I discussed the remaining agenda," she said. "The security threats have not completely been eliminated and therefore the United States will continue to support the Colombian people, the Colombian military and their government in the on-going struggle against the insurgents, the guerrillas, the narco-traffickers who would wish to turn the clock back."
In an unusual gesture, Clinton met Wednesday with both contestants in Colombia's June 20 presidential run-off election.
She promised close American relations with whoever wins - former defense minister Juan Manuel Santos of Mr. Uribe's ruling party or former Bogota mayor and Green Party candidate Antanas Mockus.
Clinton's meetings with CARICOM leaders will focus on security issues, including recent gang violence in Jamaica, Haiti's earthquake recovery and environmental issues - among them the massive Gulf oil spill off the Louisiana coast.
CARICOM, founded in 1972, has 15 full member states, including Haiti and Jamaica, and five associate members.