By Patricia Maresch, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – U.S. President Barack Obama visited Rio on Sunday, March 20th as planned, part of a two-day visit to Brazil during a five-day South American trip. His time in Rio consisted of a morning look at the favela Cidade de Deus (City of God) in Zona Oeste (West zone), a speech at the Theatro Municipal to the Brazilian public, followed by a visit to Christ the Redeemer.

President Obama during his speech at the Theatro Municipal, photo courtesy Valter Campanato/ABr
President Obama during his speech at the Theatro Municipal, photo courtesy Valter Campanato/ABr.

Despite being somewhat overshadowed by the multinational military campaign in Libya and continued Nuclear concerns in Japan, the Brazilian public received Obama’s visit warmly.

On the streets of the Cidade de Deus favela, residents chanted Obama’s name, while mingled with the president’s security officers, journalists and army soldiers.

Governor Sergio Cabral, Mayor Eduardo Paes and Security Secretary José Mariano Beltrame welcomed Obama and his family at a gymnasium for a small get together with some community members.

Cidade de Deus has 70,000 residents and is the favela made famous in the 2002 Brazilian film “City of God” which was nominated for four Oscars. Living conditions in the community have changed significantly since the implementation of the Police Pacification Unit (UPP) in February 2009.

In Cidade de Deus, Obama and his daughters Malia and Sasha played with kids from a local sports program. Then they watched a capoeira performance and a percussion group played Maracatu, Samba, Axé and Funk for their American guests. “What most impressed and moved the Obama family was the achievement of peace in the community,” Cabral tweeted.

Percussion performance at Cidade de Deus, photo courtesy of Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ABr
Percussion performance at Cidade de Deus, photo courtesy of Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ABr.

Obama then spoke inside the Theatro Municipal for a group of about two thousand guests, ranging from Rio government officials to football legend Pelé and former Minister of Culture and musician Gilberto Gil.

Other famous Brazilian actors, singers, TV personalities and members of the American Society of Rio de Janeiro were in the audience as well. In addition, Brazilian children from the Youth Ambassadors program, a social responsibility initiative of the U.S. Embassy were present.

Obama began his speech informally, saying “Oi, Rio de Janeiro” and thanked the “warmth and generosity” of the Brazilian people for himself and his family. He then referred to an important football (soccer) game which was going on at the time of speech.

“Those remarks warmed up the audience,” said Steve Spencer, a Board member of the American Society. “Obama said all the right things,” Spencer continues “He addressed the common struggles for equality and justice that both our countries have,” Spencer said.

Obama celebrated the fact the U.S. and Brazil are countries where “ordinary people” have done “extraordinary things”, with its history of countries made by immigrants. “ I thought he did well, with appeal to both the Brazilian as well as the American people present,” an American lawyer in Rio, Michael Royster, said.

José Junior, coordinator of the Cultural NGO AfroReggae whose percussion group performed at the theater before the American leader’s arrival, thought Obama “very charismatic” and was not surprised at all that the president got a standing ovation.

At the time of the speech, First Lady Michelle Obama and their two daughters visited the Cidade do Samba which was hit by a tragic fire weeks before Carnival. A visit to Christ the Redeemer then closed the Brazilian leg of the five-day Latin America tour.

The previous day, Saturday March 19th, Obama had a bilateral meeting with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. It will be in Chile where Obama makes his Latin American policy speech, White House aides say, and then the third and final stop is in El Salvador.


  1. Is Rome burning? Yes, well, it’s Carthage, actually. And good riddance.
    Is Nero fiddling? No, actually, he’s overseeing bombing raids over Carthage.
    In the meantime, he has said several truths about Brasil and USA, which need repeating: we are nations of immigrants, we are continental sized countries, we are democracies. There is not another country in our hemisphere (save Canada) which fits those descriptions.
    As my daughter might say, Yeah Us!
    Seriously, Yeah Us!
    If you are a foreigner moving through Brazil now, be glad! Enjoy! and, in the famous words of Marie Antoinette, “lie back and enjoy it!”.

  2. (Even Globo, which is extremely pro-establishment, has an article on their site today – criticizing the superficiality of the Obama’s visit to Cidade de Deus… and how now, afterwards, things have returned to normal – with piles of uncollected trash… poverty… etc).

  3. Dear Diego,

    We tried to contact you directly but the email address you provided did not work. First, we appreciate your Readership and engagement and find your point of view has merit and value.

    As you know from our Op-Ed Poll, we have been reviewing how we handle comments on the site:

    What we need to avoid is Defamation — also called Slander (for transitory statements), and Libel (for written, broadcast, or otherwise published words).

    Defined as “the communication of a statement that makes a claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may give an individual, business, product, group, government, or nation a negative image.”

    So while we review our comment policy/features, please bear with us, and keep comments as objective and civil as possible. We want your insight, opinion and community dialogue – just keep it clean.

    Muito obrigado,

    The Rio Times


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