Jorge W. Visits Colombia

Jorge W in Colombia

 

From the New York Times:

The risky nature of President Bush’s trip to this violent country was spelled out on a television monitor aboard Air Force One en route from Uruguay: “Colombia presents the most significant threat environment of this five country trip!”

Listing the terrorist and criminal threats as “high,” the message — meant for Mr. Bush’s security detail but seen by reporters on the plane — underscored the complications Mr. Bush is confronting during his visit to South and Central America.

Mr. Bush’s visit to Bogotá was in itself a statement of support for Mr. Uribe: no American president has visited the capital city since 1982, largely because of security concerns.

Aides said Mr. Bush chose to come to illustrate that under Mr. Uribe it was now possible for an American president to visit without incident.

But his hosts were not taking any chances. After the empty decoy motorcade left the airport, the real one traveled to the palace at speeds of up to 60 miles an hour under heavy military guard, with 20,000 troops and police assigned to his protection, lining his route with submachine guns visible on the street and on rooftops. The motorcade passed nearby protesters carrying a large sign that read “Yankee Go Home” and another banner displaying the Communist hammer and sickle.

The leading local newspaper here, El Tiempo, griped that Mr. Bush’s visit was too short, and featured a front-page headline that read, “Bush: Seven hours are enough?” Above it read a smaller headline listing the visits by the last two United States president to visit the city: “Kennedy (1961, 13 hours) and Reagan (1982, 5 hours).”

Rather than illustrating that it is “possible for an American president to visit without incident,” scenes like the one in Colombia on Sunday do more to demonstrate how huge the security concerns are and how limited presidential travel must be because of them. At what point does putting on a spectacle like this become counterproductive?

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