Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
President Barack Obama is cutting his trip to Latin America short, and will leave Wednesday morning, hours before his originally scheduled departure.
The White House says Obama will leave El Salvador, the final stop on his five-day trip, after holding a conference call with his national security team to discuss the situation in Libya.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
President Barack Obama opened the final leg of his Latin American tour Tuesday in El Salvador, a critical partner on immigration and narcotics wars, issues of increasing concern to the United States.
Obama, along with wife Michelle Obama and their two daughters, arrived in the capital San Salvador Tuesday afternoon under a blistering sun following stops in Brazil and Chile. After being greeted at the airport by children in traditional dress bearing candy, the president and first lady were welcomed at the national palace by El Salvador’s President Mauricio Funes and his wife Vanda Pignato. The two couples stood at attention in front of the flags of both their countries as the national anthems of El Salvador and the United States were played. Obama and Funes then headed into a private meeting at the palace, to be followed by a joint news conference.
Much of Obama’s five-day tour of Latin America has been overshadowed by events in Libya, where the U.S. and international partners are launching military strikes to protect civilians from attacks by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. The White House said Obama was briefed on developments there by his national security team Tuesday during a conference call from Air Force One. He also spoke with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy while en route to El Salvador, to discuss NATO’s roll in the Libya offensive.
The White House shuffled Obama’s schedule in El Salvador, moving up a visit to the tomb of slain Roman Catholic Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, originally scheduled for Wednesday, to Tuesday evening. The move raised the prospect that Obama might return to Washington ahead of schedule.
Among the issues on Obama’s agenda in El Salvador –the only Central American country on his Latin America trip — is the rising crime south of the U.S. border, from which El Salvador is hardly immune. It has seen murder rates rise amid an influx of drugs and displaced traffickers from crackdowns in Colombia and Mexico.
El Salvador also has one of Central America’s highest rates of emigration, especially to the United States. About 2.8 million Salvadoran immigrants living in the United States sent home $3.5 billion last year, so laws that crack down on immigrants can significantly affect the Salvadoran economy.
Obama can offer little to fix El Salvador’s devastating crime and fragile economy. Fiscal pressures have limited the amount of money the U.S. government can provide as part of its drug-fighting efforts, and congressional politics have made it difficult to restart talks about overhauling the nation’s immigration laws.
In a broad-ranging speech in Chile on Monday that spelled out his policy in Latin America, Obama called on the region’s rising economies to take more responsibility and play a larger role both in the region and around the globe.
He also described U.S. initiatives in Latin America to help curb the proliferation of drugs. Congress approved $1.8 billion for the so-called Merida Initiative to fight drugs in Mexico. After complaints that Central America was shortchanged, Congress created a separate Central America Regional Security Initiative with a total of $248 million so far. Central American leaders say that has not been enough.
Obama also prodded the region to fight poverty, lauding countries that have pushed more of their population into the middle class.
“We’ll never break the grip of the cartels and the gangs unless we also address the social and economic forces that fuel criminality,” he said Monday.
Funes, who despite being elected with support from former Marxist guerillas has charted a moderate course in El Salvador, agrees with Obama that all countries in the region need to contribute to a solution.
Some Central American leaders have expressed annoyance that Obama chose to meet with Funes instead of a broader group of Central American leaders. But Latin America policy experts said it was important for Obama to endorse Funes’ pragmatic approach despite the leftist inclinations of his party.
Funes said he would raise the issue of security with Obama in regional terms. “Security cannot be seen as exclusively an issue in El Salvador, or Guatemala or Nicaragua,” he said recently. “Central American countries all suffer from the same problem.”
Obama conceded Monday that the United States also bears a burden when it comes to gun trafficking.
“Every gun or gunrunner that we take off the streets is one less threat to the families and communities of the Americas,” he said.
But Obama, in calling for a new discussion on guns, recently declined to endorse the very gun control measures he had supported in the past.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)