A few days before George Bush visited Colombia, correspondent Chris Stubbert sent me this post, with a few â€œman on the streetâ€ comments from BogotÃ¡ residents about the upcoming trip. I apologize for taking twelve days to post it – we’re way behind on everything right now – but it’s a great read.
On Sunday, March 11th, U.S. President George W. Bush will make his first ever visit to BogotÃ¡. Greeting him will be President Uribe, hoping to secure â€œPlan Colombia 2.â€ On his 5-stop tour of Latin America, Bush will discuss the usual issues: trade, security, and ‘development’.
Security, as one would imagine in this city, will swell with 7,000 extra police and thousands of soldiers, complementing the normal 13,000 officers already stationed here. 700 U.S. security forces will also accompany Bush on his one-day visit.
If any one citizen had that many people protecting him, wouldn’t his vision be blurred too? Wherever Bush visits there is always increased security. Even in Manhattan at the UN, presidential visits are always traffic nightmares, but Colombia has something to prove to this most important financial benefactor. President Uribe will try to show how security has ‘improved substantially’.
The security around Bush, although absurd and humorous, is not the focus of this article. I wanted to know what ordinary Bogotanos were thinking about his visit. This is the first time in many years an American president has visited their city, and the reactions are very interesting. Here are just a few of the various opinions that I collected.
‘His visit is meant to represent his strong support to his friends in Latin America to counter the ChÃ¡vez-Morales-Correa alliance. Itâ€™s an image tour. He doesn’t really care about the issues as much as reassuring U.S. support in the region and principally showing that ChÃ¡vez is not the only influence down here.’ – manager of a utility company
‘The U.S. is the most important partner Colombia has. We don’t want him to come here but the relationship is essential, most notably for trade. He (Bush) also has his interests, perhaps with petroleum. But make no mistake, I’m not a fan of Bush.’ – marketing rep. for a food company
‘His visit is blown out of proportion. It would be better if he visited not BogotÃ¡, but a real town more closely related to the conflict. He shouldn’t come to the bubble of the capital. Colombia needs to start looking for a 2nd or 3rd country to rely on, not only the US.’ – self-employed worker
‘The owner of the farm is coming. Latin America is significant and Bush has finally recognized the threat coming from the ChÃ¡vez alliance. Perhaps he finally realizes how important this part of the world is than previously thought.’ -IT employee
‘Bush needs to focus on his neighboring countries, not only what is happening in Iraq etc. He also will be trying to push for support of the FTA and coming to Colombia he will be looking for U.S. and Colombian congressional support. There are a lot of people against him right now.’ – graduate student
‘Bush coming here is really based on one thing: the FTA. This is only about trade. Perhaps this is an opportunity for the U.S. to give Colombia more business. And keeping the relationship strong with Colombia allows the U.S. to use us to solve problems with Ecuador and Venezuela. But really, itâ€™s about trade – money.’ lawyer, multinational company
Whatever Bush hopes to accomplish here on Sunday, one thing is for certain: Bogotanos whom Iâ€™ve spoken to donâ€™t want him to come. They donâ€™t enjoy seeing even more police and army on their streets, and the cynicism and contempt of American policy as usual in this country will continue to prevail.
Letâ€™s just hope the international media starts to question the â€˜successesâ€™ of Uribe and Plan Colombia, while putting pressure on Bush to change course in this part of the world. 5 billion U.S. taxpayer dollars have come down here since 1998, and how much has it really accomplished? I wonder if George W. will be thinking of this while his 80+car motorcade travels from the airport to Casa NariÃ±o.
March 8, 2007