US President Barack Obama flew to Chile yesterday to promote democracy and economic growth on the American continent on the second leg of his Latin American tour aimed at bolstering trade and investment.
“Promoting a safe, stable, and prosperous hemisphere where the United States and our partners share responsibility on key regional and global issues is the most effective means of defending our core democratic values in the Americas,” Obama told the Chilean El Mercurio newspaper, according to a transcript released by the White House.
He said that during his talks with Chilean leaders, he will focus on areas where the two countries can work together, such as economic growth, energy, citizen security and human rights.
“The Chilean experience and particularly your successful democratic transition and sustained economic growth, is a model for the region and the world,” Obama said.
On Sunday, he delivered a keynote address in Rio de Janeiro, which was the highlight of his visit to Brazil, the first stop on a three-nation Latin America tour.
The speech came after France, the US and Britain launched missile and bomb attacks on Libyan air-defense targets to prevent Libyan leader Muammer Qaddafi’s forces from crushing a month-old uprising against his rule.
Obama did not mention the strikes in the speech, but, on his first trip to Latin America as president, made a point of flagging Brazil to Middle Eastern leaders as an example of what they could achieve.
“We are seeing the struggle for these rights unfold across the Middle East and North Africa,” Obama said, speaking in a famed Rio theater.
“We’ve seen the people of Libya take a courageous stand against a regime determined to brutalize its own citizens. Across the region, we’ve seen young people rise up — a new generation demanding the right to determine their own future,” he added
Both the US and Brazil “know that the future of the Arab world will be determined by its people,” he said.
“When men and women peacefully claim their human rights, our own common humanity is enhanced. Wherever the light of freedom is lit, the world becomes a brighter place. That is the example of Brazil, a country that shows that a dictatorship can become a thriving democracy,” Obama said.
Brazil endured more than 50 years of populist and military regimes until 1985, when civilian rule was restored.
Obama, who had earlier toured the notorious “City of God” slum, poignantly recalled how he had watched Black Orpheus, a movie set in a Brazilian favela, with his mother as a child.
“My mother is gone now, but she would have never imagined that her son’s first trip to Brazil would be as president of the United States,” he said to cheers in the crowded Teatro Municipal in Rio.
Brazil, host of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, has made an amazing economic leap in recent years, lifting millions from poverty and achieving new global influence.
Recent progress in cleaning up its infamous slums was demonstrated by Obama’s visit to a favela, so dangerous that only a few years ago no one would have been safe.
Washington sees the tour as a chance to reassert US influence in Latin America, a region largely neglected under Obama’s predecessor, former US president George W. Bush.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, the nation’s first female leader, and Obama signed a series of agreements that included reducing trade barriers and broadening Brazilian oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico.
Oil recently discovered off Brazil’s coast could amount to twice US reserves.
“We want to help you with the technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely, and when you’re ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers,” Obama said.
Obama and Rousseff also discussed Brazil’s interest in buying 36 new fighter jets, the White House said.
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