President Obama's meeting with President Lula

Latin America and the Caribbean

On Saturday, Brazilian President Lula da Silva met with President Obama at the White House. He was the first Latin American head of state to be received in Washington since Obama's inauguration. What the two discussed behind closed doors wasn't made public, however at the press conference following the meeting, the two presidents mentioned that they covered topics ranging from the global financial crisis to cooperation on energy and biofuels, expanding trade relationships and improving standards of living in impoverished countries in Latin America. Prior to the meeting, news sources such as Reuters speculated that President Lula would urge Obama to improve relations with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. The only glimpse of this conversation came when President Obama mentioned that he and President Lula intended to "use the strength of the U.S.-Brazilian relationship to strengthen ties throughout the hemisphere." While President Lula noted that "President Obama carries the responsibility and has a unique and exceptional position to improve the relationships with Latin America." President Obama also said that "I have been a great admirer of Brazil and a great admirer of the progressive, forward-looking leadership that President Lula has shown throughout Latin America and throughout the world." After the meeting, President Lula appeared at a press conference at the Brazilian embassy, according to the Spanish news agency EFE, where he continued to discuss his conversation with President Obama, adding that he had "asked his U.S. peer, Barack Obama, to establish a new relation 'of confidence and not interference' with Latin America, that would include closer ties with Venezuela, Cuba, and Bolivia." Additionally, President Lula affirmed that he had told President Obama that Latin American nations, not the United States, should take initiative on the fight against drugs and collaborate among themselves to control their borders. The meeting between the two presidents comes at an opportune time, when the new U.S. adminstration is formulating the approach it will take at the upcoming Summit of the Americas in April, where heads of state from the Western Hemisphere will come together to discuss ideas and opinions on the political, economic, social and security challenges confronting the region.