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Rice to Visit Brazil, Chile to Boost Strategic Ties

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is traveling to Brazil and Chile this week to highlight the United States' strong relationship with two strategic countries in Latin America. Rice is expected to focus on growing economic ties with both countries, regional security and proliferation issues. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has details in this report from the State Department.

Secretary Rice will visit Brasilia where she will meet with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Foreign Minister Celso Amorim.

On the agenda is cooperation between the two countries on issues, such as trade, finance, regional security, nonproliferation and arms control.

Rice is expected to try to advance cooperation on biofuels in an effort to boost an agreement signed last year to promote diversifying energy supplies, energy markets and sustainable development.

Brazil has been touting its agricultural potential and energy experience, especially in ethanol, which Brazil makes from sugar cane.

Rice is also expected to visit Salvador da Bahia, a city on the northeastern coast of Brazil.

More than 80 percent of the population in the area is of African origin and Rice, who is African American, is expected to discuss what State Department officials say is a joint effort against racial discrimination.

"Brazil has dealt with issues of minorities and minority rights and you overlay onto that how to deal with racial and ethnic differences over the years and how to deal with those in the context of a democracy," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. "Essentially how does a multi-ethnic democracy work, progress and thrive? We have had our own struggles in that regard, so there are some common bonds there."

Rice then goes to Chile where she will meet in Santiago with President Michelle Bachelet and Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley.

There, Rice plans to revive a long-standing, but largely dormant strategic partnership between Chile and the U.S. state of California.

State Department officials say both have complimentary economies and spokesman Sean McCormack says a centerpiece of the visit is a proposed educational exchange program.

"The secretary is very interested in international educational exchange programs and in the issue of education as an important national security priority. This particular program really highlights those two aspects of her personal as well as policy interests," he added.

U.S. officials say relations between the U.S. and Chile have never been stronger and the secretary is also expected to discuss issues such as diplomacy, security, culture and science.