News / Americas

    Obama Aims to Recognize Democracies, Economic, Social Progress

    Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff speaks during the Citizen Rights Forum at Planalto palace in Brasilia, Brazil, March 15, 2011 (file photo)
    Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff speaks during the Citizen Rights Forum at Planalto palace in Brasilia, Brazil, March 15, 2011 (file photo)

    President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are scheduled to arrive Saturday in Brazil on Saturday, on the president's first trip to South and Central America that will also take him to Chile and El Salvador. Obama will recognize the consolidation of democracies in the region, and reassure Latin America that the U.S. intends to step up its economic engagement.

    The president has described the trip as an effort to forge "new alliances" across the Americas, and White House officials say agreements can be expected at each stop in areas such as energy, economic growth and security.

    The Obamas first stop is Brazil, the world's 7th largest economy with a growing middle class, but which like other countries in the region continues to grapple with legacies of social injustice and poverty.  

    A a news conference last month with Brazil's foreign minister, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the two countries are cooperating closely on food security, human rights, clean energy, global inequality and other issues.

    "Brazil and the United States seek to promote open and accountable government, civil rights, a vibrant civil society, and social inclusion."

    Louis Goodman, Dean of the School of International Service at The American University in Washington, D.C.,  said Obama should be effective in the messages he delivers, particularly as the first African-American U.S. president and a symbol of America's acceptance of diversity.

    "People want to feel that the U.S. stands for diversity. They could not always be sure of that. Some of our foreign policy moves in the past suggested that we wanted things in a cookie-cutter image. And the fact that we have an African-American president who has a foreign policy style that lets other countries have their own processes is very, very well received."

    Obama meets with President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's first woman head of state, and delivers a speech to the people of Brazil from Rio de Janeiro. Brazil will host the Olympic Games there in 2016, and the World Cup in 2014.

    Discussions with Rousseff, and meetings with Brazilian and American business executives, will focus on investment opportunities in areas such as as renewable energy, science and technology, education and innovation. These are all priorities for Obama's job-creation agenda back home.  

    White House officials say Obama also likely will raise Brazil's discovery several years ago of major offshore oil and natural gas deposits, something he mentioned in a recent news conference about rising energy prices.

    "When it comes to imported oil, we are strengthening our key energy relationships with other producer nations, something that I will discuss with President Rousseff when I visit Brazil."

    Other likely topics are political upheaval in the Middle East, and Brazil's desire to become a permanent member of an expanded U.N. Security Council.

    At a recent panel discussion in Washington,  Brazil's ambassador Mauro Vieira, said Brazil and the U.S. have their differences but this is  Obama's opportunity to reach out to Brazil and the entire region.

    "The important thing about this trip, the trip and the visit itself, is the desire of the American government itself to reach out to the region and to discuss very broad and very wide agenda with every country," said Vieira.

    In Chile, Obama meets with President Sebastian Pinera, the first conservative head of state since the end of the Pinochet era, and will deliver what the White House calls a major policy speech about the U.S. relationship with Latin America.

    Roberto Matus, deputy chief of mission at Chile's embassy in Washington, said it will be an opportunity to lay out a clear American vision for an equal partnership.

    "We should recognize the differences of the countries, respect the specificities of development and models of development of each country, and from there try to build a forward-looking vision, a partnership on how Latin America is a global player and how Latin America should be present in this area," said Matus.

    In El Salvador, Obama will discuss counter-narcotics efforts, trade, and immigration with President Mauricio Funes, a former member of the leftist Farabundo Marti guerrilla movement, who now heads a center-left government.

    El Salvador's ambassador to the U.S., Francisco Altschul, said the battle against organized crime and drug traffickers requires a unified regional response. "They don't respect borders, they don't respect laws, they don't respect anything. And that is why it is a regional problem and therefore the solution has to be regional"

    Back home, Obama faces criticism that he has been slow to help the U.S. seize opportunities in Latin America, and compete with China and others for influence.

    U.S. lawmakers have questioned why free trade pacts signed, but then re-negotiated with Colombia and Panama - both left off Obama's itinerary - have not yet been sent to Congress.

    The president has said he is committed to moving both pacts to congressional approval as soon as possible. Among impatient lawmakers is Republican Representative Connie Mack who heads the House of Representatives Committee on Western Hemisphere Affairs.

    "The administration’s lack of action is killing U.S. jobs. The failure to move forward on our promises is hurting important allies in the region."

    Eric Farnsworth, Vice President of the Council of the Americas, said Obama must persuade Latin America that the U.S. is its best partner, though others are knocking at its door.

    "We can put names on those opportunities - China, Canada - certainly rising Brazil, and intra-regional trade and relationships, and I think we can no longer assume that we are the only game in town, if we ever were," said Farnsworth.

    There also is continuing criticism, especially from Cuban-American lawmakers, of administration policy on Cuba. There is concern about Honduras, and the domestic and regional policies of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, including his embrace of Iran's government.

    Where Chavez is concerned, Goodman said that positive messages Obama delivers on his trip should speak for themselves. "By visiting two countries that are economic success, Brazil and Chile, and two countries that don't behave in an erratic way on the international scene, Brazil and Chile, he will be sending a message that this is what the United States wants to relate to."

    The president is scheduled to arrive back in Washington next Wednesday.

    You May Like

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    More Americas News

    In Colombia, Abortion Is Legal but Denied to Many Women, Advocates Say

    Colombia, a nation of 48 million people, allows abortion in cases of rape, incest, fetal malformation, if the fetus is at risk and if the health, both physical and mental, of the mother is at risk

    Colombia Says 2 More Journalists Missing in Rough Area

    Journalists missing in region where security forces are already carrying out massive search for prominent Spanish journalist, President Juan Manuel Santos said Tuesday

    Cuba to Legalize Small, Medium-sized Private Businesses

    Move could significantly expand space allowed for private enterprise in one of world's last communist countries

    Coca Cola to Halt Some Production in Venezuela

    Sugar shortages and a deep recession have been forcing production shutdowns across the country

    Recording Allegedly Shows Minister Plotting Against Brazil's Rousseff

    Planning Minister Romero Jucá, who will step down temporarily, denies allegation, says words in published transcript of tape were taken out of context

    Mercury Poisoning Prompts Peru to Declare State of Emergency in Amazon

    People, rivers and fish poisoned; government blames illegal gold mining