Clinton to visit Latin America

May 13, 2009 3:41:41 PM PDT
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Wednesday she will travel to Latin America in coming weeks to further U.S. goals in a region where she recently expressed concern about inroads by Iran, Russia and China. Clinton will visit El Salvador to attend the June 1 inauguration of Salvadoran President-elect Mauricio Funes and then Honduras where she will participate in the June 2-3 annual general assembly of the Organization of American States.

The trip will be a follow-up to last month's Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago at which President Barack Obama said his administration was willing to pursue more positive relations with all nations in the Western Hemisphere.

"For our part, the United States has been engaging our neighbors ... to find collaborative and effective ways to move forward in areas of urgent concern," Clinton told a meeting of the Council of Americas, announcing her trip and noting recent hemispheric cooperation on combatting the H1N1 swine flu virus.

U.S. ties with several Latin American countries, including Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia, which are all headed by democratically elected but leftist leaders, languished during the Bush administration.

Earlier this month, Clinton told State Department employees that the Obama administration is looking at restoring ambassadorial-level representation and other strategies aimed at those nations. She also said the United States wants better relations with Cuba but wants evidence of reform on the communist island.

On May 1, Clinton told State Department employees that President George W. Bush's Latin American policy had been counterproductive, allowing leftist leaders like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Bolivia's Evo Morales and Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega to promote anti-U.S. sentiment and rely on aid from China, Iran and Russia.

She said the growing influence of China and Iran in those countries is "quite disturbing" and that "they are building strong economic and political connections with a lot of these leaders. I don't think that's in our interest."

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