President Bush becomes political football in Colombia's elections

Heads of state have long sought photos alongside the president of the United States, presenting the audience back home with the image of a respected statesman on the world stage. Now a Colombian politician is turning that tradition on its head and using those images as a weapon, hoping that U.S. President George W. Bush's low approval ratings don't stop at the border.

As Colombia's election campaign draws to a close, candidate Carlos Gaviria is running commercials showing President Alvaro Uribe walking and talking with Bush. "Colombia has many products to sell, but the country is not for sale," says a voiceover, referring to a trade deal Uribe negotiated with the United States that has been criticized by many here, especially by farmers who fear they will be ruined by a flood of subsidized American products.

"I think this free-trade agreement has caused a rise in anti-American feeling here," said Juan Manuel Charry, a lawyer and political analyst. "It's been presented from the point of view of the Colombian producers and how they'll go out of business, and not enough has been said about the consumer who could see prices go down."

As a wave of leftist leaders have been elected across South America, some outright hostile to the U.S., Colombia remains Washington's closest ally in the region.

But though Colombia is one of the world's largest recipients of U.S. foreign aid, about as many Colombians have negative views of the United States as those who have positive ones, according to recent polls. Positive or negative, the commercial isn't likely to make much difference. With the election a week away, Uribe leads Gaviria in polls by 30 points, reports the AP.

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