In Chile, Obama Insists “We Are All Americans”

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First Lady Michelle Obama, President Barack Obama, President Sebastián Piñera of Chile and his wife Cecilia Morel wave during the welcoming ceremony at La Moneda Palace in Santiago, Chile, March 21, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

News Americas, SANTIAGO, Chile, Tues. Mar. 22, 2011: The theme of One Americas was echoed yesterday in Chile as U.S. President Barack Obama, on his first trip to Latin America, insisted: “We are all Americans. Todos somos Americanos.”

The President in remarks at the Palacio de La Moneda Cultural Center in Santiago, Chile pinpointed the common history and heritage shared by the two Americas and called for an expansion of trade between the two regions.

“Our exports to this region — which are growing faster than our exports to the rest of the world — will soon support more than 2 million U.S. jobs. In other words, when Latin America is more prosperous, the United States is more prosperous,” said Obama.

Obama insisted that when countries across Latin America come together and focus on a common goal, when the United States and others in the world do our part, “there’s nothing we can’t accomplish together.”

The President also announced that United States will work with partners in this region, including the private sector, to increase the number of U.S. students studying in Latin America to 100,000, and the number of Latin America students studying in the United States to 100,000.

He, however, pointed to the rise in narco-trafficking in the Americas, insisting that it is affecting the U.S. as well as Latin America and the Caribbean and they all must work together to fight the scourge.

As he reiterated: “Criminal gangs and narco-traffickers are not only a threat to the security of our citizens. They’re a threat to development, because they scare away investment that economies need to prosper. And they are a direct threat to democracy, because they fuel the corruption that rots institutions from within.”

Obama said while the U.S. is doing its part to help fight drugs and gun trafficking, the Americas must also “address the social and economic forces that fuel criminality.”

“We need to reach at-risk youth before they turn to drugs and crime. So we’re joining with partners across the Americas to expand community-based policing, strengthen juvenile justice systems, and invest in crime and drug prevention programs,” said the President.

“We’re also encouraging the next generation of businesses and entrepreneurs. So we’ll work with the Inter-American Development bank to increase lending. We’ve expanded credit under a new Microfinance Growth Fund for the Americas. We’re supporting reforms to tax systems, which are critical for economic growth and public investment. We’re creating new “Pathways to Prosperity” — microcredit, entrepreneurship training — for those who must share in economic growth, including women and members of Afro-Caribbean and indigenous communities,” he added.

President Obama arrived early yesterday morning in Chile and held a working meeting with the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, following his arrival there. Last night a state dinner was held on his behalf.

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