Despite many assumptions that President Barack Obama would cancel his Latin American tour after the terrible earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan last week, the White House recently announced his intentions to move forward with the trip. “Every day you’re president there’s a world event somewhere. The American people understand and expect their president can walk and chew gum at the same time,” said White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer.
President Obama and First Lady Michelle plan on visiting Brazil, Chile and El Salvador on their first trip to Latin America since the president took office more than two years ago. Many in the region are eagerly awaiting the visit, buoyed by Obama's lofty words at the Summit of the Americas in 2008.
"I know that promises of partnership have gone unfulfilled in the past," Obama told the region's leaders. "We have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms. But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership," he added. "I'm here to launch a new chapter of engagement that will be sustained throughout my administration."
The President flies out on Saturday for his five-day trip and his first stop is Brazil, where his main goal seems to be to repair the relationship between the United States and South America's largest and most powerful country. Leaders of Brazil and the U.S. have previously disagreed on Iranian sanctions and agricultural policies, but with Brazil's new President Dilma Rousseff willing to listen, there a high hopes that diplomatic relations can get back on the right track.
Obama and Michelle's next stop will be to Chile, where President Sebastian Pinera said that the President will be signing an accord that could include U.S. training for Chilean nuclear engineers. Chileans are also expected to push for admitting their citizens into the U.S. visa waiver program.
Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes told local business leaders that President Obama's visit to their nation was a recognition of "its leadership and desire for integration" in the fight against poverty. "The government of President Obama has a special interest in establishing with El Salvador an alliance for growth," Funes said.