BUENOS AIRES – Barack Obama’s official visit to Argentina marks the start of “a new phase” in bilateral relations, Argentine President Mauricio Macri said Wednesday after talks with his U.S. counterpart.
For the conservative Macri, who took office on Dec. 10, Obama’s visit has a “special significance.”
For Obama, who is in the final stretch of his second term, Argentina now appears to be a strategic ally in South America.
The two leaders appeared at a joint press conference at the Casa Rosada, the seat of the Argentine administration, where they spoke about recent advances in the bilateral relationship.
There, Macri emphasized Obama’s “inspirational leadership” and said that they both share “a vision of the 21st century,” which he called the society of knowledge, of the development of science and technology and of innovation.
“You ... proposed big changes, and you demonstrated that they were possible, that with daring, with conviction, the status quo could be challenged,” he added.
Meanwhile, Obama said he was “impressed” by the speed with which Macri – since becoming president – has implemented the reforms he promised for Argentina to create more sustainable and inclusive economic growth and to “reconnect” the South American country to the “world community.”
The U.S. president, who arrived in Argentina after a three-day historic visit to Cuba, said that his conversation with Macri was “excellent.”
Obama emphasized the new role Argentina has assumed after the tensions during the presidency of his predecessor, Cristina Fernandez, and hailed the “constructive” attitude of the government toward resolving in New York courts the conflict over the halt in debt repayments since 2001.
On the first visit of a sitting U.S. president to Argentina in almost two decades, the two leaders “explored ... opportunities” for mutually dealing with “global challenges.”
Macri emphasized the U.S. government decision to declassify the archives it possesses on Argentina’s brutal 1976-1983 military regime, which killed some 30,000 people in its “dirty war” against the left.
Obama’s crowded agenda in Argentina continued on Wednesday with a meeting with young people and greeting U.S. Embassy personnel in Buenos Aires. During the evening, he will go to the Kirchner Cultural Center for a gala dinner offered by Macri in his honor.