U.S. President Barack Obama announced in his State of the Union address last night plans to travel to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador this coming March “to forge new alliances for progress in the Americas.” Obama is scheduled to arrive in El Salvador on March 23 after first visiting Brazil and then Chile. The March trip will be the first visit to South America by a sitting U.S. President since George W. Bush visited Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico in March 2007.
This will mark the president’s first trip to South America as either a private citizen or head of state. However, Obama did travel to Trinidad and Tobago to attend the 34-nation Summit of the Americas in 2009 where he pledged to re-engage the region. Of the three countries Obama plans to visit, he last met with President Mauricio Funes of El Salvador in March in Washington DC where the two expressed a desire to work together to combat organized crime and drug trafficking.
The decision to visit these countries is timely given the recent presidential elections in both Brazil and Chile and their roles as economic leaders in the region, writes Eric Farnsworth in the AQ blog. Both Brazil and Chile have elected new presidents in the last 12 months.
The visit also comes as the newly sworn-in 112th U.S. Congress recently appointed Connie Mack as Chairman of the Sub-Committee on the Western Hemisphere. But his seeming unwillingness to engage Latin America on its terms poses a challenge to the administration’s desire to re-engage with the region, writes Christopher Sabatini in the AQ blog.