Obama's Latin America tour
March 17th, 2011
02:45 PM ET

Obama's Latin America tour

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Amid unrest in the Middle East and the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, President Obama is staying the course by pressing forward on his five-day trip to Latin America. 

The First Family will depart Friday night for stops in Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador, where the president will meet with the leaders of each country to discuss trade and the global economy. It will be his first visit to the three countries and a chance to talk about hemispheric challenges.  

"This trip gives us an opportunity to highlight the work that has been done and will continue to be done with a very important set of global-regional partners and leaders," said Daniel Restrepo, a White House policy advisor for Western Hemisphere affairs. "At each stop there are a series of concrete steps and agreements that will be reached on the types of issues that we pursue in the Americas."

Though the United States and Brazil are the two largest democracies and economies in the Western Hemisphere, this trip is unlikely to produce any new trade initiatives.

"I think you could probably describe this for President Obama as a discovery visit.  It’s a get-to-know-you trip – like apparently on initiatives, not a terribly clear strategy in visiting these countries, but probably heavily – but probably heavy on listening." said Stephen Johnson of the bipartisan research group Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In Brazil, President Obama will meet with President Dilma Rousseff, who is just beginning her first term. The two leaders will discuss Brazil's increasing role on the global stage, something that is welcome news according to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes.

"As a core component of the kind of relationship we’re building with Brazil, again, we believe that it’s a relationship guided by shared interests, a rapidly emerging power on the global stage, and we believe we can have a particularly close relationship with Brazil because of the shared values that we have," Rhodes said. 

While in Chile, President Obama and Chilean President Sebastián Pinera will hold a meeting to talk about improving trade relations with Latin America. In a briefing with White House reporters, administration officials also said energy issues will be a big part of their discussions.

On the last stop in El Salvador, discussions with President Mauricio Funes will likely center on the country's economic growth but will also include immigration, poverty, and issues with international violence.

While the White House hopes for progress on these issues, they agree it's more about deepening relationships with Latin America. 

"If you look at any metric in the region, President Obama is a hugely popular leader," Rhodes added. "And that's important both because it makes it easier for countries to cooperate with us and to be our partner on issues that we care about."

First Lady Michelle Obama has her own schedule of events such as a cultural performance by young disadvantaged Brazilians, an education speech in Chile, and a visit with underprivileged El Salvadorans. The Obama daughters, Malia and Sasha, are expected to travel with their parents as part of their spring break vacation.

Topics: South America • The News • Travel

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soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. nheckt

    Sure why not, maybe a little hanging out on the beach, go golfing have fun. The rest of us will sit back quitely and show our voices in 2012 and boot you out!!!!!! If he did something it might actually interrupt his schedule...

    March 17, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
  2. Yank

    I guess he won't be out picketing with the people of Wisconsin, Ohio or Michigan like he promised during the campaign?

    March 17, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  3. Tomy Villeda

    Why in the President Barack Obama´s next trip to Latin America, he is not visiting Costa Rica, the oldest democracy in the continent ? tv

    March 17, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
  4. Liz Carter in Georgia

    And these clowns have the gall or stupidity to say CNN's biased to PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA! I've often wondered how in the world could anyone in their right minds come to that conclusion! The whole first paragraph shows subtle intent to hurt or harm him! I've noticed that same type of hidden degradation and beration against him, or his wife in EVERY topic! Sometimes it's all in one sentence! The first 2 bloggers are jealous, lying, begrudging haters! You don't want BIG GOVT telling states what to do, HUH?

    March 17, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  5. Notfooled

    Have a Wonderful trip First Family! (For you complainers don't worry he's only a phone call away) His office flys with him remember. Isn't technology wonderful.

    March 18, 2011 at 5:31 am |
  6. Liz Carter in Georgia

    @Notfooled; I agree with you! They deserve to enjoy themselves. They work so hard trying to please such an un-united nation, until whenever they can break-away; cell phone, office and all, it's a good thing.

    March 18, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
  7. moedbet

    Thank you – this is awfully helpful !

    May 22, 2011 at 2:58 am |