WASHINGTON – President Bush is tacking on visits with two Latin American allies to his trip to Chile for a gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders later this month. On his way back to the United States from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (search) summit, Bush plans a quick stop in Cartagena, Colombia, on Nov. 22 to meet with President Alvaro Uribe (search), the White House announced Friday.
The night before, Bush was remaining overnight in Santiago after the conclusion of the two-day summit for an official visit with Chilean President Ricardo Lagos (search).
Uribe, a conservative, is close to the Bush administration, which has funded his war on leftist rebels. His critics, however, say he has shown leniency toward banned right-wing paramilitaries who have waged a dirty war against the rebels.
The United States has given Colombia about $2.5 billion in anti-drug aid over four years, mostly to buy, fly and maintain helicopters and spray planes. The helicopters are used on drug-fighting missions, such as protecting spray planes that fumigate fields of coca and opium.
Many members of Congress have objected to the aid because of concerns about the Colombian military's human rights record and whether the United States could be drawn into the country's civil war. Some doubt whether the aid would lead to a reduction in imports of illicit narcotics. Colombian officials credit the program for a 15 percent drop last year in coca cultivation and a 25 percent drop in opium.
In September, Secretary of State Colin Powell applauded gains in Colombia's counter-narcotics war, but he warned Uribe that the country may not be meeting congressional standards for improving protection of human rights.
With Lagos, a top agenda item for Bush will be a free-trade pact signed last year and how to continue to expand trade between the two nations.
From Colombia, Bush was to travel to Crawford, Texas, to spend the Thanksgiving holiday at his ranch.
The day before Thanksgiving, Bush and his wife, Laura, were welcoming Spain's King Juan Carolos and Queen Sofia to their home for a private luncheon, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said.
On the way to Chile, Bush was to attend the Nov. 18 dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Ark.