Obama Evokes a Latin America as U.S. Partner, With a Leading Role in the World
By Dialogo March 23, 2011
Speaking at the highly symbolic Palacio de La Moneda in Chile, President Barack Obama said that Latin America will be an increasingly important partner for the United States and will play a greater role in the world.
At a press conference with his host, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, Obama acknowledged that “the history of relations between the United States and Latin America has at times been extremely rocky.”
In contrast, however, he said in a subsequent speech addressed to Latin America that this is currently “a region on the move, proud of its progress, and ready to assume a greater role in world affairs.”
“For all these reasons, I believe that Latin America is more important to the prosperity and security of the United States than ever before,” he added.
Obama praised a politically stable region, noting that “the people of the Americas have shown that there is no substitute for democracy,” for which reason “we have then an obligation to defend what has been won.”
On being questioned about the coup d’état that overthrew Allende, Obama affirmed that the United States and Latin America should not be “trapped by our history.”
Obama recalled that fifty years ago this month, President John F. Kennedy launched the Alliance for Progress, which proposed spending “billions of U.S. dollars to meet the basic needs of people across the region” following the triumph of the Cuban revolution.
Obama’s visit was the second stop on a Latin American trip that previously took him to Brazil and that ended on 22 March in El Salvador.
For Piñera’s administration, Obama’s visit to Chile represents recognition of the country’s political and economic stability following a successful transition from Augusto Pinochet’s bloody dictatorship (1973-1990) to democracy.
Obama met with former presidents Patricio Aylwin (1990-1994), Eduardo Frei (1994-2000), and Ricardo Lagos (2000-2006), all from the center-left, and made a commitment to them to collaborate in shedding light on cases of human-rights violations during Pinochet’s dictatorship.
“They’re going to collaborate in order to clarify all human-rights violations,” Frei commented following the meeting.
At night, Obama and Piñera presided over a formal dinner with three hundred guests. There, the U.S. president expressed his gratitude for Chilean hospitality with a speech in which he mentioned the beauty of the Andes and quoted writer Isabel Allende.
On 22 March, Obama left Chile for El Salvador, the final stop on his first Latin American trip.