President Obama is in South America with his family for Spring Break. How nice for them. It's re-election campaign time so a pleasant family vacation is always good for the image. This one even includes the mother-in-law and a godmother. The President is getting in a little soccer playing and announcing his blessing on oil production in Brazil.
The U.S. has lacked a coherent Latin American policy for the past decade, regional experts say, leaving a vacuum that China and other potential adversaries have filled by showering the area with attention, investment, arms and foreign aid.
President Obama hopes to begin to change that over the next five days with his first trip to South America, more than halfway through his first term, with visits to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador. But the challenge he faces is underscored by newly elected Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s selection of China — which in 2009 overtook the U.S. as Brazil’s largest trading partner — for her first foreign trip outside of South America
It is not as though the Brazilians haven't noticed the snub. And, you may not have heard that the people aren't exactly rolling out the welcome carpet - he was booed by crowds along the route from the airport to his first destination.
A huge riot of at least 300 rampaged through the downtown, shouting “OBAMA GO HOME!” The crowd grew increasingly violent and eventually set fire to police with a molotov cocktail. The agitators are opposed to any U.S. or U.N. involvement in Libya.
Prior to the trip, the slobbering press wanted you to believe that Brazil was completely jazzed to receive the visit from the great Hope and Change man. Remember, if this reception awaited former President Bush, it would have been the lead story on every news outlet regardless of other events of the day. But, that was then and this is now.
The folks in South America are feeling a bit left out.
“People are saying we’re losing influence in Latin America — we are abdicating influence in Latin America,” said Joel D. Hirst, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “There was so much hype around Obama’s election and Latin Americans feel abandoned.”
Indeed, two years after Mr. Obama used a speech in Trinidad and Tobago to call for a new, less- paternalistic U.S.-Latin American relationship, a series of diplomatic missteps and the lack of what analysts describe as a clear policy toward the region has left leaders feeling his words in 2009 ring hollow.
Obama did take a bit of time from his busy photo-op schedule to state that the U.S. will be a "major purchaser" of Brazilian oil. You may remember he committed millions of dollars to their drilling program as he shut down oil drilling in our own country.
Much of the money raised from deals to sell oil to the US and other countries could go towards infrastructure improvements as the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro approach. Mr Obama's visit to Brasilia also saw the US sign an agreement to help Brazil in its preparations for the sporting events, which could see America training security teams and helping with planning and infrastructure challenges.
So, as he lets the Gulf of Mexico hang in uncertainty for economic recovery after our nation's worst oil drilling tragedy and as he lets our oil production dry up, he is all in for purchasing more foreign oil and as a bonus, building up Brazilian infrastructure for World Cup and Olympics activities.