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SANTIAGO, Chile – U.S. President Barack Obama said he scheduled visits to El Salvador, Brazil and Chile in March to “forge new alliances for progress in the Americas.”
In Chile, the government has started to prepare for Obama’s visit, which has been scheduled for the week of March 21, according to the country’s foreign minister Alfredo Moreno.
During the visit, Obama will discuss with President Sebastián Piñera “renewable and nuclear energy, English-language education and postgraduate education, science, technology, astronomy and issues of interest to Latin America and the world,” Moreno said.
Obama’s trip to Chile will be the first bilateral visit by a U.S. president to the Andean nation in 50 years.
“[Obama’s visit] will show that Chile’s growth is serious,” said Nicolás Ojeda, a 20-year-old industrial design student. “The United States is convenient to partner with Chile because there is still room for [energy] development here, and we need somebody to support that development.” (Vicente Fuentealba for Infosurhoy.com)
“President Obama has said that he wants 80% of the energy used in the U.S. to be sustainable as a goal for 2035,” Moreno said. “That will mean having to develop major technology to make it economically viable. We are greatly interested in further developments in this area, particularly those related to clean energy.”
Moreno continued: “The United States is the most developed country in the world. It has the best technologies in many fields. We would like to implement those advances in our development, since it is the only way to take a significant leap forward and meet the government’s goal of having a per capita income equivalent to a developed country.”
First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha will accompany the president during his visit to Chile that will last for a day and a half, Moreno said.
President Sebastián Piñera called Obama’s impending visit “recognition of what we Chileans have done together to strengthen our democracy, to foster our economic development and to reach a more fair society, with more opportunities.”
Moreno said it is significant Obama included Chile among the three Latin American countries he will visit, as the Andean nation is one of the most politically and economically stable in the region.
“[Obama] chose Chile to make an important speech that has to do with the region, not only with Chile,” Moreno said. “We think it’s very positive that on his first visit to South America he chose Chile to set out his ideas, not only regarding our country but also with regard to our region.”
For Chileans, Obama’s visit is seen as an opportunity for the nation to showcase its stable democracy and economy, in addition to highlighting its growing importance as a key purveyor of energy worldwide.
“[Obama’s visit] will show that Chile’s growth is serious,” said Nicolás Ojeda, a 20-year-old industrial design student. “Chile has great energy potential because of all the resources we have naturally, such as wind, water and others. The United States is convenient to partner with Chile because there is still room for [energy] development here, and we need somebody to support that development.”
American investments in the energy sector could also help Chile break free from unreliable purveyors.
“When it comes to energy, we need to break out of the dependence we have on countries like Argentina and Bolivia,” said Sergio Rojas, a 27-year-old engineer, referring to the nations that sell natural gas and other energy products to the Andean nation. “Chile is a place that offers a good investment climate, and we can be exporters of energy. We are close to Antarctica, a place of untapped resources that has water, oil and coal.”
The visit also is a huge boost to Piñera’s administration.
“If the United States wants to invest here, we welcome its president and the projects he brings,” said Pablo Farías, a 38-year-old university professor. “Obama’s visit signifies support for the current government, which is doing a good job in general.”
But overall, Chileans perceive this visit as a way to cement the country’s status as one of the key players in the world, especially if advances in nuclear energy and other resources come to fruition with the assistance of the United States.
“Chile must exploit its resources and not drag its feet on issues like nuclear energy,” said Gabriel Ibarra, a 46-year-old accountant. “And if the U.S. wants to help, much better.”
“As a powerful player in the energy sector, the United States must see something good in Chile,” said Ana Palma, a 66-year-old retired primary school teacher.
Palma highlighted the educational exchange initiatives that are expected to be discussed by Obama during his visit.
“Professional and educational exchange is always beneficial,” she said. “Overall, this will be a very beneficial visit, because it will show the world all the good things Chile has to offer.”