Obama Administration Begins Outreach to Latin America



The Obama administration has begun moving on several fronts to repair strained U.S. relations with Latin America. President Obama meets Saturday at the White House with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and he is sending Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Latin American missions to prepare for the mid-April Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago.

U.S. ties with Latin America came under stress during the Bush administration, which was largely preoccupied with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and had contentious relations with several left-leaning governments in the region, notably Venezuela and Bolivia.

But the Obama administration said it is intent on trying to repair frayed regional ties based on what it says should be reciprocal dialogue and respect.

As an overture to President Obama's White House meeting Saturday with Brazil's President Lula, the administration announced a mission to Chile and Costa Rica by Vice President Biden, and a Mexico trip by Secretary Clinton, both later this month.

At a State Department briefing, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon cast the upcoming hemispheric summit in Trinidad and Tobago, which Mr. Obama will attend, as an opportunity for a fresh start in relations, based on what he termed "a spirit of engagement and constructive dialogue."

He said that efforts at outreach will apply to, among others, the Bolivian government of President Evo Morales, which has expelled two U.S. diplomats in recent months amid accusations they interfered in Bolivian politics.

"We need a full diplomatic dialogue and a high-quality dialogue. And regrettably up to this point, as we have sought to engage the Bolivians around the issues that have provoked their own actions, we have yet to receive what we consider to be a coherent or consistent response. However we will continue to approach the Bolivians in the hope that we can address the underlying issues that have affected the relationship," he said.

Shannon cast Saturday's White House visit by President Lula as a recognition of Brazil's "global ascendancy" and an opportunity to build on a U.S. partnership with Brazil on such issues as social justice, climate change, and development of alternate fuels.

Under questioning, Shannon expressed hope for an early resolution of an emotionally charged custody dispute over an eight-year-old boy, Sean Goldman, whose Brazilian mother moved him from New Jersey to Brazil four years ago without his American father's consent.

Both governments have said they consider the decision of the Brazilian woman to move the child to Brazil to have been a violation of the 1980 Hague Abduction Convention, and Shannon said he hopes this view is quickly upheld by the Brazilian court system.

"Obviously we've made it very clear that from our point of view, this is a case that falls within the purview of the Hague Convention, and that Sean Goldman should be returned to his father," he said. "The government of Brazil believes the same thing, and has said so publicly. Currently this case rests with the federal courts of Brazil. We're hopeful that the appropriate decision will be rendered, and this is an issue of great importance to us," Shannon said.

The child's mother died in Brazil last year but family members caring for him now Rio De Janiero said he has completely adapted to society there, and should be legally considered a naturalized Brazilian citizen.

The State Department said Friday that Secretary Clinton will visit Mexico City and Monterrey in two weeks (March 25-26) for talks focusing on key issues in the U.S.-Mexican agenda including the Merida Initiative, under which the United States is helping Mexico combat violent drug traffickers.

For his part, Vice President Biden will travel to Chile for a regional conference on progressive governance hosted by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet that will also include the presidents of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.

Later in Costa Rica, Mr. Biden will be hosted by President Oscar Arias, who has invited leaders of other Central American states for a joint meeting with the Vice President in San Jose.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs