BRASILIA, Brazil — President Barack Obama arrived in Brazil on Saturday for the start of a three-country, five-day tour of Latin America to promote greater economic ties and improved regional security. The trip comes against the backdrop of urgent issues elsewhere in the world, including the possibility of U.S. military action against the regime of Libya's Moammar Gadhafi.
Obama had his whole family in tow as he emerged from Air Force One into a mix of sunshine and raindrops in the highland capital of Brasilia early Saturday. First lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha and the girls' grandmother and godmother accompanied the president on the nearly 9-hour flight from Washington, and through a receiving line of Brazilian and U.S. officials. Later in the morning the president and first lady were to participate in an official arrival ceremony at the presidential palace.
In his Saturday radio and Internet address Obama singled out the economic benefits of the trip, noting the rapid growth of Brazil and Chile, the second country on his itinerary. Obama said that the United States exports more than three times as much to Latin America than to China.
"What is clear is that in an increasingly global economy, our partnership with these nations is only going to become more vital," the president said.
Brazil stands out for its strategic and economic importance to the United States. As the world's seventh-largest economy, it is a member of an exclusive club of influential developing nations along with Russia, India and China, collectively known in economic circles as the BRIC nations. Obama is looking to reset the U.S. relationship with Brazil, an emerging economic power that even without being hostile has annoyed Washington with its independent ways.
After Brazil, Obama travels to Chile, which has established itself as one of the wealthier nations in South America. His third and final stop is in El Salvador.