May 26, 2013
Obama calls for new era of US partnership with Latin America
President Barack Obama called for a "new era of partnership" with Latin America as he acknowledged a sometimes troubled past between Washington and its neighbors in the region.
Following his weekend visit to Latin America's powerhouse Brazil, Obama laid out a vision for deeper trade, investment and political ties with an economically dynamic region where the United States faces growing competition from China.
"No region is more closely linked than the United States and Latin America," Obama told a news conference after talks with Chilean President Sebastian Piñera on a visit overshadowed by fierce US and European air strikes against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's loyalist forces.
In his Latin American policy speech, Obama hailed Chile's transition from military rule to stable democracy, suggesting it could serve as a model for countries in the Arab world swept by popular rebellions against autocratic rule.
Obama said he wanted to launch a new initiative with Latin America that would be a "two-way street".
"The thing that I'm most excited about is the fact that in a country like Chile, it's not just a matter of what we can give to Chile, it also a matter of what Chile can offer us," he said, although he conceded that relations with Latin America have "at times been very rocky and at times been difficult."
Obama said the region, where economic growth has accelerated in recent years and democracy has taken hold following brutal civil wars in several countries, is now more important to US prosperity and security than ever before.
"I could not imagine a more fitting place to discuss the new era of partnership that the United States is pursuing, not only with Chile, but across the Americas," he said during a trip billed by the White House as his signature first-term tour of the region.
But he cautioned that some leaders still cling to "bankrupt ideologies" and called on communist-ruled Cuba to respect human rights.
Piñera backed Obama's call for a new alliance but reminded him that Panama and Colombia are still waiting for long-promised free trade agreements with the United States.