American president Barack Obama has announced that he will pay his first visit to Brazil and other South American countries in March. The US leader said in his State of the Union address to congress that his trip to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador is aimed to forge “new alliances for progress” across the Americas.
“This March, I will travel to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador to forge new alliances across the Americas,” the president said Tuesday night.
It will be his first visit to South America and his third visit to Latin America. In 2009 he traveled twice to Mexico and participated in the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.
The journey will be “an important opportunity to strengthen our alliances in the Americas,” National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said.
In Brazil, Obama will meet with new President Dilma Rousseff to discuss areas of mutual interest and contribute to developing the “excellent relationship” between the two countries, Hammer said.
Among the areas where US-Brazilian ties are strong, he cited clean energy, global growth, assistance to Haiti and development efforts.
In Chile, Obama will meet for the first time with President Sebastian Piñera to discuss greater bilateral and regional cooperation.
Chile, Hammer emphasized, “is one of our closest partners in Latin America” and has quickly become a regional leader in the area of nuclear security, clean energy and crisis management.
The third phase of the trip, El Salvador, will enable Obama to meet with President Mauricio Funes and to emphasize the “tight links” between the two countries, which are cemented by the large number of Salvadorans in the United States and the economic activity that they contribute to creating, Hammer said
In his speech, Obama also touted his efforts to revitalize NATO, reset relationship with Russia, and build new partnerships with nations like India.
Obama’s forthcoming visit to Latin America has cause upset in Argentina, because he will not be visiting the country. In March Obama will embark on his first trip to South America and Central America, visiting Chile, Brazil and El Salvador as he tries to shore up security and economic ties with the emerging economies.
In Argentina the fact that Obama will not visit, is seen as a blow to the country and current administration. A White House spokesperson said Obama will visit “key leaders of the continent.”
Both Argentina and the US have said that their relationship is satisfactory but recently disclosed WikiLeaks documents have shown that President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has shown her upset, on several occasions, because she feels Argentina has not been receiving the attention it deserves from the United States.
Kirchner and Obama have only held, one, short meeting together at a multinational summit, which is not the case of other countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Panama and El Salvador.
US Assistant State Secretary Arturo Valenzuela has visited Argentine twice and on neither visit was he able to meet President Kirchner. During his first visit in December 2009 he made remarks about US companies complaints about the judiciary system in Argentina, which led to a formal protest by the Argentine foreign minister.
On his second visit, less than two weeks ago, which was practically unnoticed, Valenzuela released a communiqué in which he emphasized Argentina’s valuable role in Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and regional cooperation.
Brazil’s strides in renewable clean energy and its new leader were factors in Obama’s decision to travel to the country, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. Dilma Rousseff was sworn in recently as Brazil’s new president, replacing Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
“I think the president believes that it is important for him to get to South America and Central America personally … and strengthen, as we have in Asia and in Europe, strengthen our ties to that very important region of the world,” Gibbs said while traveling with Obama to Wisconsin.
Obama won’t be the first US president to travel to Latin America. Dwight Eisenhower traveled to Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil in 1960, and George H.W. Bush traveled to the same countries in 1990. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also made official visits to Chile on the sidelines of regional summits, according to Chile’s foreign ministry.
Obama’s visit will fall during the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress, which was aimed at accelerating economic and social development in Latin America.
It’s unclear why the president won’t be making stops in Panama or Colombia, where the president has vowed to pursue trade deals.
Chilean officials welcomed Obama’s pending visit. “This is an event that isn’t repeated very often, and we hope to make the most of it,” Foreign Affairs Minister Alfredo Moreno told reporters in Chile. “We think that it’s a recognition, just as he mentioned in his State of the Union speech, that we are a country that does things responsibly and that shares common values, ideas and ways to improve development.”
Among the topics on the table for discussion are renewable energy and global economic stability, Moreno said. Regional democratic development and participation in regional multilateral organizations will also likely be on the agenda, Moreno added.
Energy will be one of the biggest issues on the agenda for Chile and the US, Moreno said. The two countries are working on nuclear energy cooperation. Chile hasn’t yet decided to give commercial nuclear reactors the go-ahead. It has, however, been talking to the U.S. about cooperation so it will have the know-how and the regulatory framework in place.
“We have to make up for lost time on the nuclear issue, and in that sense the US can provide assistance,” he said.
Even though Argentina is a member of the G-20 and is currently presiding over the so called group of 77 at the United Nations, it is not enough for Obama to visit the country.