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U.S.-Latin America: President Obama visit Brazil, Chile and El Salvador.

United States President Barack H. Obama

President Barack Obama’s decision to go ahead with his visit to Latin America, despite the escalating crisis in Japan after the earthquake there, shows his commitment to the region, said Arturo Valenzuela, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Obama arrives in Brazil on Saturday, then travels to Chile on Monday and ends his visit in El Salvador on Tuesday.

The three countries were chosen for various reasons:

President Obama and Brazil´s new president Dilma Rousseff will try to repair at times strained relations between the two countries. “There’s positive interest on both sides in starting over,” said Julia Sweig, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations who recently met with officials in the new government in Brazil. “Now they have to translate that optimism and goodwill to figure out what they can do together that’s in both of their interests, and how to mitigate the tensions that will naturally arise.” Modest goals for the trip to Brazil include progress on a trade and investment framework and bilateral tax treaty.

Chile is standing out as a model of re-democratization and of insertion in the global market. The U.S. is one of the country’s main trade partners, along with the European Union and China.

Causing great opposition due to the Japanese crisis,  Chile and the U.S. will sign several pacts like a preliminary nuclear agreement that will allow the exchange of nuclear-related information.  “It’s an agreement to broaden nuclear-related technological and scientific issues. It doesn’t seek push forth the use of nuclear energy,” Valenzuela said.

While in Chile, Obama will deliver a “Pan-American” speech in which he will outline his views on the region, according to Valenzuela.  “The speech will underscore President Obama’s vision on Latin America and the state of inter-American relations,” he said.

In El Salvador, Obama will discuss the challenge of combating organized crime like the Mexican cartels, drug trafficking and gangs like Maras Salvatrucha, while acknowledging this requires cooperation on a broad front and a shared responsibility to tackle the source of the crisis – U.S. increasing demand for illegal drugs.