RIVERSIDE, California (CNN) – John McCain announced Tuesday that he will travel to Colombia and Mexico next week, firming up plans that have been the subject of media speculation in recent weeks.
McCain said he will meet with Colombian president Alvaro Uribe to discuss drug trafficking as well as the Colombian Free Trade Agreement, which has stalled in Congress and faces opposition from many Democrats, including Barack Obama.
As was the case with his trip to Canada last week, McCain said this foray will be paid for by his campaign.
“I want to assure [Uribe] that I believe in free trade between our two countries, that I believe our two nations can work together and fight back this scourge of drugs that has so much afflicted their country and ours,” McCain told reporters at a press conference. “And so I will be telling him that. I consider him a friend and I consider the people of Colombia my friends as well.”
He called Colombia a “vital ally” and praised the “enormous battle that they are waging against the drug cartels which have had such a damaging effect on their country but also on ours.”
McCain also contended that Colombia is “succeeding in combating the FARC,” the left-wing guerilla group that has carried out attacks and kidnappings against the government since its formation in the 1960s.
Uribe, the popular second-term president whose father was killed by FARC rebels in 1983, has made eliminating the rebel group a central cause of his administration. He has also clashed publicly with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, whom McCain has called a dictator.
Specific travel details have not yet been announced.