Shifting gears after his visit to Cuba this week, President Obama set off for Argentina on Wednesday, inaugurating a new chapter in diplomatic ties between the United States and one of Latin America’s largest economies the New York Times reported.
Mr. Obama met with his Argentine counterpart President Mauricio Macri, ending a 20 year long political hiatus and distancing between Buenos Aires and Washington which characterized the policies of Mr. Macri’s predecessor, Christina Fernández de Kirchner.
‘The beginning of a new phase’
The talks not only served to strengthen and improve the United States’ image in the eyes of its Latin American neighbors and allies, but also to usher in a new period of mutually constructive cooperation.
After calling Mr. Obama an “inspiring” leader who demonstrates to the world that drastic change can be achieved by challenging the status quo, Mr. Macri said, “this is the beginning of a new phase of mature, intelligent, constructive relations in which the only concern for us both is to improve the quality of life of our people.”
President Obama reciprocated President Macri’s compliments at a news conference following their meeting at the presidential palace.
“Under President Macri, Argentina is reassuming its traditional leadership role in the region and around the world,” Mr. Obama told reporters.
“On a range of areas, we discussed the way in which the United States and Argentina can be strong global partners to promote the universal values and interests that we share,” he added.
Despite calls for him to fly back to Washington from Cuba following the attacks in Brussels Tuesday, Mr. Obama stood resilient in the face of terror, deciding to continue his trip through Latin America. Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Macri took a moment of silence to morn the victims and to stand in solidarity with the Belgians.
The topic of the United States’ involvement and support of the 1976-1983 military dictatorship came up during the meeting, remaining a painful subject for Argentinians as many were imprisoned, tortured, and witnessed family members disappear without a trace.
March 23, the day of Mr. Obama’s arrival in Argentina, coincided with the 40th anniversary of the U.S. military coup which destroyed so many lives.
Following a tirade of fervent criticism over the ominous date of Mr Obama’s arrival, the president pledged to expedite the Argentine government’s formal request to declassify U.S. military, intelligence and law enforcement files, that could expose what the U.S. was aware of regarding the “dirty war” that ushered in the brutal dictatorship.
When asked by an Argentine journalist to explain what the U.S. government’s part in the military dictatorship had been, Mr Obama chose not to remind everyone of the United States’ long history and involvement in the region.
“There are moments of great success and glory, and there are moments that were counterproductive, or contrary to what I believe America should stand for,” Mr. Obama said.
The ‘holdout’ deal
During the meeting between the two leaders, activist groups marched in protest against the talks, and burned American flags in the street La Nacion reported.
The protestors repudiated the presence of the U.S. president on the somber anniversary of the U.S. backed military coup, additionally, they marched in protest against Mr. Macri’s deal with the ‘holdout’ funds that recently advanced through a congressional hearing.
The bill still has to hit the senate before it takes effect, however it is the first legislative victory for Macri’s administration.
Mr. Obama praised President Macri’s efforts to make amends with the New York based ‘holdout’ funds, however he chose not to discuss the issue as it remains pending in a U.S. court.
“I’m impressed because he [Macri] has moved rapidly on so many of the reforms that he promised, to create more sustainable and inclusive economic growth, to reconnect Argentina with the global economy and the world community,” Mr. Obama said of Mr. Macri at a joint news conference Reuters reported.
Before returning to the United States, Mr. Obama and his family will fly to Bariloche, a popular lake side tourist destination visited in the past by Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Bill Clinton.