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Obama Heads to Brazil

President Barack Obama makes a statement about Japan in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, March 17, 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama departs late Friday for Brazil, beginning a three-nation Latin American trip that is to focus on economic, security and energy matters.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama are expected to arrive in Brasilia Saturday.

The trip, which also includes stops in Chile and El Salvador, will be the president's first visit to South and Central America - a region of broad political and economic diversity and the focus of fierce global competition for investment, exports and influence.

President Obama 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.

In Brazil, Obama is to meet with President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's first female head of state, and deliver 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.

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

While in El Salvador, Obama is to 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.