Obama Clearly Not Welcomed in Brazil

By Luis R. Miranda
Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
March 19, 2011

People in Brazil have made it clear that U.S. president is not welcomed here.  Proof of such a sentiment is the absurd ring of security created around Obama’s visit to Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia.  Besides the usual number of secret service agents and other security arrangements that any American president enjoys when traveling abroad, the Brazilian government formed a 3,500-strong security apparatus that will accompany Obama throughout his visit.

Protests in Brazil began Friday, a day before Obama’s arrival to Rio de Janeiro.  Some 200 protesters gathered outside the American Embassy in Rio to make their voices heard, but military police thugs rapidly attacked them with molotov cocktails, rubber bullets and tear gas.  “They came after us with clubs and tear gas and attacked,” said protester Thiago Hastenheiter.  The protesters employed nothing else than American flags and banners with messages such as “Obama Go Home”.  Almost all protesters, had manifested their opinions peacefully until a couple provocateurs launched two homemade molotov cocktails towards the American Embassy.

One of the main points of protest by Brazilians is the statement made by Obama about how the United States wants to import some of the oil recently found at an off-shore deposit called ‘Pre-sal’, which the local oil company Petrobras has been managing so far.  In a statement published on the USA Today, Obama explicitly showed his interest in getting his hands on those and other oil resources produced here in Brazil.

Outdoors speech canceled

The opposition to Obama’s visit has been so vociferous here in Brazil that according to a communique issued by the American Embassy, Barack Obama has canceled a public event at Cinelandia Square, located downtown Rio de Janeiro.  The speech which was supposed to be a direct address to the Brazilian people, was moved to the Municipal Theatre, an Embassy spokesperson said.  The message did not detail whether the public would be allowed to attend, or if it’s going to be held only for credited guests.  No explanation as to why the change of the venue was included in the communique.

According to Rio de Janeiro’s media, American secret police landed in Rio Thursday to explore Cinelandia Square ahead of Obama’s event.  They were received with banners opposing the American president’s visit. Some social and union groups presented banners with messages naming Obama a “persona non grata“.  The messages also protested the United States’ policy of war and occupation which Brazilians consider is part of a fake campaign for peace fought in the name of the war on terror.

Afraid of the Press

Although previous to his departure for Brazil Obama magnanimously claimed that he was coming to South America to talk to people and engage in meaningful conversation, he has also refused to answer questions from local and foreign press.  The cancellation was done even before he left Washington.  According to a U.S. aide, the change in plans occurred at the request of the Brazilians, and not Obama.  There seems to be some uncomfortable matters the local president, Dilma Rousseff and Mr. Obama would not like to address, for example, why hasn’t the U.S. supported a permanent position for Brazil in the U.N.’s Security Council.  It is clear why though, after the Brazilian representative to the U.N. abstained from voting for the invasion of Libya and the creation of a no-fly zone.

Obama is scheduled to leave Brazil later for a short Latin American tour that includes Chile on Sunday and El Salvador before he returns to Washington.