Obama Hails Relations With Latin America

President Obama spoke about the maturing relationship between the United States and Latin America in Santiago, Chile, Monday. The president said the countries of the region can be a guide for people in the rest of the world who are moving toward democracy.

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In Santiago, Chile, President Obama declared that American relations with Latin America have entered a new era. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports it was a kind of keynote speech halfway through the president's travels in the region.

ARI SHAPIRO: This is the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's Alliance for Progress, which invested billions in Latin America. President Obama said the region has grown up since then.

President BARACK OBAMA: I believe that in the Americas today there are no senior partners and there are no junior partners. There are only equal partners.

SHAPIRO: Many of these countries have emerged from dictatorships in the last few decades. And millions of people in the region have emerged from poverty.

President OBAMA: The lessons of Latin America, I believe, can be a guide, a guide for people around the world who are beginning their own journeys toward democracy.

SHAPIRO: The president has been juggling his agenda here with oversight of the military conflict in Libya. Yesterday he answered questions about Libya for the first time since the U.S. military operation there began. He reiterated that this is a narrow mission to protect civilians, with the U.S. only taking the lead at first. But he confirmed that the U.S. has a broader policy goal of forcing Gadhafi from power through diplomatic, financial, and other means.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Santiago, Chile.

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