La Plaza

News from Latin America and the Caribbean

« Previous Post | La Plaza Home | Next Post »

In Colombia, McCain backs free trade and war against drugs but supporter backs 'terrorist' groups

July 2, 2008 | 11:11 am

Mccain As we mentioned yesterday, John McCain is on a three-day trip of Colombia and Mexico this week, and he kicked it off Tuesday  by proclaiming his support for a free-trade deal with Colombia and backing its president's war against drugs and leftist rebels (see CNN video dispatch below).

Speaking in the historic coastal city of Cartagena, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate voiced pro-free-trade views at a time when such policies are increasingly unpopular in Congress and with the U.S. public, writes the L.A. Times' Chris Kraul.

Today, McCain focused his attentions more specifically on the illegal drug trade, touring a port to look at interdiction efforts.

But according to the Huffington Post this morning, one of McCain's key supporters has a complex personal relation to Colombia's war against drugs and rebel groups.

Among McCain's prominent supporters and fundraisers in Ohio is Carl H. Lindner Jr., a billionaire Cincinnati businessman, former CEO of Chiquita Brands International and co-host of a recent top-dollar fundraiser. Under his direction the company funded both the paramilitary and the leftist FARC and ELN,  as the L.A. Times has reported, and commented on in this editorial.

"Beginning under his tenure, Chiquita executives paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (known by the Spanish acronym AUC), which is described by George Washington University's National Security Archive as an 'illegal right-wing anti-guerrilla group tied to many of the country's most notorious civilian massacres,' " according to the Huffington Post's.

Chiquita "had been making similar payments to the leftist FARC and ELN guerrillas" since 1989, also on Lindner's watch,  the report continues.

McCain thanked Colombian President Uribe "for the progress" he had made against FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), noting that Colombian armed forces had killed and captured several rebel leaders over the last year.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

Photo: Republican presidential hopeful, Sen. John McCain. Credit: Lauren Victoria Burke / Associated Press.