And he’s off: President Obama left for on a five-day bridge-building tour of Latin America Friday evening, part of an effort to bolster U.S. influence in the region. Brazil will be Obama’s first stop, where he will pay a visit to the infamously crime-ridden slum of Cidade de Deus, or City of God, in Rio de Janeiro, before meeting privately with Brazil’s new president, Dilma Rousseff, to strengthen the bonds between the two countries. The relationship between the U.S. and Brazil had soured in recent years due to ties between Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The trip got off to an inauspicious start, however, when Obama learned that Rousseff called off a joint press conference between the two leaders, according to White House officials. The Obama administration tried to get Rousseff to reconsider, since it’s customary for U.S. presidents who travel abroad to hold these events and field questions from reporters of both countries, but the Brazilian leader wouldn’t budge.
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