Obama in Brazil – The Trip and its Importance for Brazil

US president, Barack Obama, was scheduled to deliver a speech on Sunday in Cinelândia, in downtown Rio. The plan discussed with the Brazilian federal, state and municipal authorities, was that Obama should speak on Sunday in front of the Theatro Municipal surrounded by a security scheme. It is not expected that Obama will deliver a speech similar to the one made at the University of Cairo in June 2009. In the meantime it is known that the ‘open’ speech will be held inside the Theatro Municipal.

Guards are waiting for the arrival of President Barack Obama to put up the US flag - Photo Reuters

The US president visited Brazil on 19 and 20 March with an arrival in Brasilia, where he met with President Dilma Rousseff, after which to travel to Rio, where he will attend the above mentioned event and visit a favela to see the results of the implementation of the project Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora (UPP – Unit of the Pacification Police). The favela more likely to be visited is Cidade de Deus (City of God) because it is a flat community where security is easier to be executed than in a community located on one of the hillsides such as the Favela Santa Marta in Botafogo.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff waiting in front of the Palácio do Planalto for the arrival of US President Barack Obama - Photo William Volcov-AE

Accompanied by his wife, Michelle Obama, and their two daughters, Malia and Sasha, the US president arrived at Brasilia Air Force Base Saturday at 00.08am. Around 10.00am, they were received by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff at the Palácio do Planalto (Presidential Palace).

At his arrival President Obama inspects the guards of honour - Photo Reuters

President Dilma Rousseff and president Barack Obama during the official arrival ceremony in Brazil - Photo Ichiro Guerra/PR

After the signing some ten bilateral agreements, Dilma and Obama made a joint press statement. By 13.00h, the two presidents headed to Itamaraty (the Foreign Ministry). Before lunch and after making a short speech, they joined the Forum of CEOs, in the Ruy Barbosa room.

The Obama family is greeted by President Dilma Rousseff at their arrival at the Palácio do Planalto - Photo AP

After lunch, Obama participated in the Cúpula de Negócios Brasil-EUA (Business Summit US-Brazil). The event is organized by the National Confederation of Industry.

Pres. Dilma Rousseff and Pres. Barack Obama in a meeting with CEOs in the Palacio do Itamaraty - Photo Ailton de Freitas-O Globo

The same day Obama and family continued their trip to Rio de Janeiro.

Since Brazil has a female president, who has no partner, there is no first lady to accompany, Michelle Obama, the first lady of the US. She will now be accompanied by Tania Gabrielle Cooper Patriota, the wife of Brazilian foreign minister, Antonio Patriota.
Tania is a director of the office of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Venezuela and representative of the agency in Bogota, Colombia, where she lives.

What is the importance of this state visit?

Antonio Patriota

In a meeting with American diplomats at the US Embassy in Brasilia on 18 November 2009, the then secretary general of Itamaraty (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Antonio Patriota – the current foreign minister and ex-ambassador of Brazil in Washington – spoke frankly. He warned, that in the country there was a growing sense that the US government is neglecting the relation to Brazil.

– Our relationship can improve a lot, but that will require new and creative thinking on both sides – he said, according to a telegram sent by the US Embassy to Washington, and recently released by WikiLeaks.

Pres. Barack Obama and Pres. Dilma Rousseff participate in the Forum of CEOs - Photo AP

The confidential document suggests that this is the challenge that is at stake during the visit of President Barack Obama, with the risk that his trip to Brazil will just become a show without further consequences. Smiles and declarations of friendship should be plentiful. Some agreements will be signed, but where are the items to lend strength to the occasion.

Mike Forman, vice director of US National Security, made the purpose of the visit clear: to increase US exports to Brazil and get a slice of the pre-salt oil and infrastructure works for the World Cup and Olympic Games.

Both sides mention the prospect of a “new beginning” or a “new partnership.” But under this facade, there are hurdles to be dissolved will the relationship flourish. “The relationship needs to be more strategic”, insisted Patriota in the same conversation leaked by WikiLeaks.

“Overall, the engagement (of Brazil) with the USA has been pragmatic rather than strategic”, said Lisa Kubiske, charge des affaires of the US Embassy. “Many people in charge of Brazilian foreign policy remain cautious and suspicious in regard to the United States”.

During Obama's speech to the Forum of CEOs - Photo Reuters

Judging from official reports, the US government doesn’t conform to the fact that Brazil seeks an influential position in the world, according to its own interests and not through the perspective of Washington. “While Patriota knows the USA well, and is ready to engage us, he will not do so from a pro-American perspective, but solely based on the traditional nationalist perspective of Itamaraty, which often remains cautious and suspicious about the actions and US motives”, relates a telegram. And adds: “Patriota made it clear that, although Brazil seeks engagement with the US, it will only do so in accordance with its own terms.”

First Lady Michelle Obama during a speech to Brazilian youngsters - Photo de Sérgio Marques

– Brazil wants a relationship of equals. We want multiple aspects of cooperation, not rivalry, leadership and confrontation – Brazilian foreign minister Patriota said, adding:
– Of the nine US presidents who visited Brazil, this is the one occasion an American president will find the country in better economic and political conditions, with a high international profile, and a truly global reach of our diplomacy.

Pres. Barack Obama and Pres. Dilma Rousseff greeting students of a public school - Photo Divulgação-Roberto Stuckert Filho

With a trip focused on the prospect of new business opportunities and increase exports to Brazil, the US president arrives accompanied by his top economic advisers.

So all Brazilian eyes are fixed on the best President the USA have had for ages. In general the Brazilians were lighthearted and euphoric during the presidential campaign of Barack Obama and delighted when he was elected. It promised a new era for Latin America.

First Lady Michelle Obama and President Dilma Rousseff greeting Brazilian ex-presidents José Sarney and Fernando Henrique Cardoso - Photo Divulgação-Roberto Stuckert Filho

A toast to seal the friendship

Bye, bye Brasilia and up to Rio