South America Is More than Drugs and Crime, Brazil's Lula Will Tell Obama

Obama and Lula Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva, the President of Brazil, revealed that during his coming meeting with his US counterpart on Saturday, March 14, he would ask American President Barack Obama to adopt a more "development minded" attitude towards Latin America.

"We are a democratic and pacific continent and the US should look at us with a more development minded attitude and not only think about drug trafficking and organized crime," said Lula who will be the first Latin American leader to meet President Obama at the White House.

Lula said the main purpose of his trip to Washington, invited by President Obama, is to convince the new US leader to become a "partner" of Latin America and help strengthen the continent.

The meeting was originally scheduled for March 17th but was advanced because of St. Patrick's Day.

A long agenda awaits the two presidents beginning with the world slowdown and the coming G-20 summit in London where both leaders will again meet. Brazil has emerged as a strong supporter of free trade and has urged a quick approval of the WTO Doha round to help abort the growing global protectionist tendencies.

On the more political side, Lula will want to talk about Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and overall relations with Latin America.

Earlier this week, President Hugo Chavez gave the green light for Lula to talk with Obama about Venezuela and the diplomatic rift with the US, inherited from the previous George W. Bush administration.

On Cuba Lula is expected to insist with the Latin American consensus that it's time to end the US embargo on the Castro regime. Brazil has pointed out that the (new) US position towards Cuba will have a significant effect on relations of the continent with Washington.

The Brazilian president is also expected to defend Bolivia, which has had a troublesome relation, full of retaliations with the former Bush administration. Bolivia has seen its textiles exports to the US suspended following the expulsion of the US ambassador in La Paz and the DEA officers, whose office was closed down.

Biofuels of which the US and Brazil are leading global producers (from corn and sugar cane respectively) is another chapter of the agenda particularly since the Obama stimulus plan contemplates US$ 15 billion for the development of new clean energies, cut US overseas dependency on imported oil and reduce emissions which stimulate climate change.

Following the meeting Lula will travel to New York for a conference to US businesses about investment opportunities in Brazil.

In a brief release on the coming visit the White House said "Brazil is a close friend and partner of the United States" and President Obama "looks forward to discussing ways in which the two countries can strengthen cooperation on global and hemispheric challenges."

President Obama is also looking forward "to consulting with President Lula on effective measures to respond to the global financial crisis during the upcoming G-20 meeting, ensuring a productive agenda for the Summit of the Americas in April and on ways to deepen cooperation on other wide-ranging issues in the bilateral relationship."

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