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Latin American Leaders Congratulate Obama Win

Latin American leaders have congratulated U.S. president-elect Barack Obama for his victory on Tuesday. VOA's Brian Wagner reports that many leaders hope the new president will bring a renewed focus on Latin America.

After his election in 2000, President Bush promised a new era of engagement with Latin America. Many regional leaders, however, were disappointed that commitment did not come to pass, as Washington turned its attention to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Economic concerns are expected to dominate the agenda of president-elect Obama when he takes office in January. But Latin America leaders are hopeful the new president will work with them to address trade, security and social concerns in the future.

Felipe Calderon, the president of Mexico, one of America's leading trade partners, congratulated Mr. Obama and invited him to the country.

In Chile, President Michelle Bachelet said Mr. Obama will take office at a time when world leaders are searching for new solutions.

Mrs. Bachelet said Chile and the United States share many of the same concerns, such as the need for social justice, greater equality and the hope for change in the future.

In Colombia, President Alvaro Uribe said he hoped to work closely with the Democratic president to advance shared goals. The Colombian government has been working with President Bush and Republican leaders to win approval of a free trade agreement, which many Democrats have opposed. Mr. Obama has said he wants to address concerns in the deal, such as greater protection for union leaders, before the trade deal becomes law.

For leftist leaders, the election of Mr. Obama marks a break with the Republican administration of President Bush.

Relations have soured recently between Washington and Bolivia, where President Evo Morales has accused Mr. Bush of seeking to interfere with his government. The Bolivian leader said the new U.S. president could help bridge differences between the nations.

Morales said he hopes Mr. Obama will lift the economic embargo against Cuba, remove U.S. troops from some countries, and he said he is confident that relations between Washington and La Paz will improve.

During the campaign, Mr. Obama promised to review harsh policies against Cuba, especially a set of Bush administration limits on remittances and family travel to the island. Many Cubans on the island and those living in the United States have said they support Mr. Obama's softer approach.

In Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also called for an end to the U.S. embargo toward Cuba. He added that the election of an African-American as U.S. president should give pride and hope to a country like Brazil, where many residents claim African ancestry.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez issued a statement saying the U.S. election showed that the sweeping changes occurring in South America may now come to the United States. He said the time has come to form new ties between the two countries, which are based on true cooperation and respect for the sovereignty of nations.