Barack Obama’s visit to Brazil sparks a media frenzy, while Brasília abstains from UN vote on action in Libya.
The Brazilian press indulged in a good old-fashioned media frenzy this week as the country prepared for the visit of United States President Barack Obama and his family.
The Obamas arrived in Brasília early on Saturday morning as the president began his trip with a historic first meeting with his Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff.
After the meeting, Obama spoke at the headquarters of the Brazilian Industry Federation, where he focused on economic and trade issues, stressing the job-creating potential of increased bilateral trade.
He explained that his administration takes its economic relationship with Brazil just as seriously as it does with India and China, and, pointing out enthusiastically that US technology is on hand to help the country manage its new-found oil resources, was explicit about why: ‘we want to be one of your best customers’.
Obama was less enthusiastic, however, on the question of Brazil’s push to secure a permanent seat on the United Nations Security council, conceding only that the US ‘will work at reforms that will make the Security Council into a more efficient, effective and representative body, to further the image of a more cooperative world’.
On a lighter note, the 44th President did find time to joke that he was sad to have narrowly missed the country’s carnival celebrations, although he admitted that it might have interfered with the productivity of the trip.
On Sunday the media circus moved from Brasília to Rio de Janeiro, where Obama and his family paid a high-profile visit to the Cidade de Deus, the favela made famous by the 2002 blockbuster City of God. His whistestop tour took in meetings with community leaders, and he even found time to kick a football around with a group of local children before departing to give a speech at the city’s municipal theatre.
Aside from a handful of small protests, the Obama family received an enormously warm welcome in Brazil, although back home a number of right-wing pundits have been quick to lambast the president for making time for a ‘vacation’ just days after the US lent conditional support to the enforcement of a no-fly zone over troubled Libya.
Brazil abstained from Thursday’s United Nations vote, with Itamaraty’s ambassador to the UN, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, expressing concerns over the potential efficacy of a no-fly zone. Casting doubt on the idea of using force to ensure the safety of Libyan civilians, Viotti suggested that in fact, military intervention could have an opposite effect: ‘increasing the likelihood of confrontation on the ground’.
She underlined, however, that Brazil remains committed to the other elements of the resolution passed on Libya, including a veto on selling arms to the Gaddafi regime.