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By Amy Skalmusky, Senior Contribution Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – U.S. President Barack Obama will begin his Latin America visit in Brasília on Saturday, March 19th, where he will meet with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to discuss business and building a relationship for the future. During the visit, Obama’s first to South America, he and his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters will spend Sunday, March 20th, in Rio de Janeiro.

U.S. President Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama, photo by Steve Jurvetson/WikiMedia Creative Commons License.

During the stop in Rio, Obama will be speaking to the the Brazilian people in Cinelândia Square in the afternoon. The event will be free of charge, open to the public and translation will be provided. The gates will open at 11:30AM, but more specific information is pending.

He is also expected to visit the Christ the Redeemer Statue at Corcovado, as well Cidade de Deus (City of God), one of the favelas recently pacified by the UPP program.

A U.S. Consulate contact noted however, that the only White House confirmed information for Rio is the Cinelândia speech, so other stops are still only speculation.

Few were surprised that Brazil was chosen to be Obama’s first stop on the Latin America trip. With the country expected to be the world’s fifth largest economy by 2016, Obama hopes to improve trade relations, and take advantage of President Rousseff’s greater willingness to engage the United States.

Image provided by the U.S. Consulate General of Rio de Janeiro.
Image by the U.S. Consulate General of Rio de Janeiro (click to expand).

Although Brazil and the United States share a number of common goals and enjoy a cordial relationship, the two countries have had periodic disputes on trade and political matters.

“This will be the first meeting between President Obama and President Dilma,” said U.S. Ambassador Thomas Shannon in an Istoe É magazine interview. “This will be a key opportunity to define the tone and the path of the bilateral relationship.”

The countries have clashed over trade issues such as U.S. ethanol and farm subsidies in recent years. In 2009, Brazil had a nearly US$10 billion trade deficit with the U.S., fueled by an internal demand for imports. The deficit was one of the talking points between Rousseff and U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, during his visit to Brazil last month.

International issues have, more recently been a source of tensions between the two countries. The U.S. was at odds with former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s diplomatic support of Iran, its backing of the ousted Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, as well as its recognition of the state of Palestine based on the borders that existed prior to the Middle Eastern 1967 Six-Day War.

Lula offering a Brazilian Soccer Team's shirt as a gift to President Barack Obama
Lula offering a Brazilian Soccer Team's shirt as a gift to President Barack Obama after G-8 meeting in 2009, photo by Ricardo Stuckert/ABr.

Rousseff, however, appears to be taking a more diplomatic approach to relations with the U.S. than her predecessor. Though Rousseff and Obama have met before when she was Minister of the Civil House, they are now on more level footing.

Shannon explained “President Obama’s decision to visit Brazil shows his respect for President Dilma Rousseff and for Brazil. This historic meeting between Brazil’s first female President and the first U.S. African-American President will highlight the momentum of our democracies and the growing openness of our societies.”

The agenda for the discussions will cover a range of topics. Some of the issues that will likely be on the table are China’s recent overtake of the U.S. as Brazil’s top trading partner, the multi-billion dollar Brazilian Air Force contract for which Boeing is competing.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. They should resolve visa issues – and waive the tourist visa process for Brazilians entering the US…. and Americans entering Brazil…

  2. I agree with Diego, they should get rid of the visas. CB, The story says 11:30 AM, the flyer doesn’t have anything written.

  3. Haha, the story said PM… the correction was made later…

    But for sure, the visa thing is absurd and stubborn, on both sides…

  4. He cames to Brazil to da learn Samba Dacing after Carnival! Welcome Obama and Michelle to the best happy country in the world!!!

  5. Yeah, the public event has been cancelled. Security threat..??? Or shame at seeing Cariocas treat it like a bloco..???

  6. Public event cancelled for two reasons: (a) Dilma didn’t like the idea of Obama speechifying when she doesn’t do that; (b) security was going to be unreal, straight out of “The Day of the Jackal” with sharpshooters on the rooftops, one entrance only, no bags, no backpacks, no umbrellas, no liquids–a complete bummer.
    This whole trip has been fraught with squabbles–Obama wanted to stay in the Sheraton because it has a “private” beach, Brazil said it also has unpacified favela right behind it. Dilma wanted Obama to stay in Brasilia Saturday night, he wanted to come to Rio with his family. They can’t even agree on a joint press conference today.

  7. What I have read from the US is that Obama is coming to Brazil to dump chinalike products that we are currently buying from China and not from the US. We have enough of unemployment here in Brazil – we do not need that. Junky knick knack. What we need is to have those foreign exchange students programs again like in the sixties and send our youth to the US to learn in real colleges and not in the dumps that teach here. Provate colleges do not teach. Federal colleges you do not see the teachers, they are always traveling ot having fun somewhere, because they are government enployees. If their foreign policy is bad for us, their internal policy is wonderful – they ve got it made. We should imitate them. US is a good country, even democrat presidents wont change that.

  8. Haha, good point (a) about Dilma not wanting to be outshone by Obama. The other reason is the security threat after Obama endorsed the idea of invading Libya…

    But yeah, that’s funny about the hotel squabble – i guess Cabral was embarrassed by the fact that Vidigal is out of the control of his government (even though anyone who has actually been to Vidigal knows, that it functions just fine – if not better, than any UPP-run favela)…

  9. While the whole world is trying to waste time looking for the oil in Lybia, Obama is doing a big step with a deal in Brazil – this country recently began selling off some of the world’s largest reserves of oil.

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