Today in Latin America
Top Story — U.S. President Barack Obama will start his trip to Latin America in Brazil later this week, despite the ongoing international crisis in the wake of the massive earthquake in Japan.
“The trip is on,” Obama spokesman Jay Carney said, according to The Associated Press. “You have to remember that economic growth in the United States is the president’s top priority, and this trip is very focused on economic opportunities for the United States and trade relationships.”
In Brazil, Obama will look to boost U.S. exports and expand other economic opportunities in one of the world’s emerging countries. Besides visiting Brazil, Obama will also make stops in Chile and El Salvador on a trip that will see him abroad from Saturday through the following Wednesday.
Obama heads to the region at a time of growing trade between U.S. and Central and South America, where U.S. exports to the area have grown 86 percent between 2004 and 2009 and are on track to double that in the next five years.
To show how serious the economic importance of this trip is Obama is bringing along Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and Energy Secretary Steven Chu to Brazil.
Obama has twice been forced to postpone foreign trips, once because of his effort to pass a health care bill and then because of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. Some critics wondered whether he might be forced to postpone this visit due to political wrangling in Washington, the natural disaster in Japan or the upheaval in the Libya, but White House officials said that he will be able to deal with all issues while abroad.
“He is the president of the United States. There are major issues all the time that a president has to contend with, which is one of the reasons why he has such a substantial support framework around him when he travels,” Carney said, according to AFP.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- A judge denied bail to three officials from a New Mexico border town who are accused of illegally buying guns in the U.S. and sending them to Mexico.
- Two small children and an elderly woman were killed by gunmen in the Mexican resort town of Acapulco.
- An inmate in Nuevo Laredo stabbed to death the prison’s warden on Monday.
- A New York Times reporter who interviewed a shadowy ex-CIA operative is set to testify at his perjury trial Wednesday after long resisting taking the stand.
- The cholera epidemic affecting Haiti looks set to be far worse than officials had thought, experts fear.
- Hundreds of National Guard troops in Puerto Rico headed back to their civilian jobs Tuesday after spending more than a year helping police the island amid a soaring murder rate.
- Cabin crew members on an AeroMexico flight stopped two drunken pilots in Costa Rica from entering the cockpit.
- Venezuela’s state oil company said a fire erupted at a major oil refinery, but it is under control and will not hurt oil shipments.
- The Colombian armed forces claim to have killed a FARC rebel leader who was allegedly the group’s main contact with Mexico’s drug cartels.
- Ecuador is seeking about $1 billion in financing for infrastructure projects to boost growth near its border with Peru.
- New opinion polls show front-running presidential candidate Alejandro Toledo solidly entrenched in first place, with a tough fight for second place before Peru’s April 10 general elections.
- Uruguay announced Tuesday it had recognized a Palestinian state, becoming the latest in a string of Latin American countries to do so.
- Chilean talk show host Don Francisco denied offering a bribe to a laboratory worker to switch his DNA after a Chilean man claimed to be his son.
- Argentine vineyards are focusing their attention on capturing the relatively new Asian markets.
Image: Pete Souza @ whitehouse.gov.