WASHINGTON – U.S. President Barack Obama praised Chilean democracy on Monday as he welcomed the Andean nation’s leader, Michelle Bachelet, to the White House.
“Chile has been a model of democracy in Latin America. It’s been able to consistently transition from center-left governments to center-right governments, but always respectful of democratic traditions,” Obama said at the start of his meeting with Bachelet in the Oval Office.
“Obviously, those traditions were hard-won, and President Bachelet knows as well as anybody how difficult it was to bring about democracy,” he said, alluding to the Chilean leader’s experience as a political prisoner during the Pinochet dictatorship.
The president planned to talk with Bachelet Monday about the political situation in Latin America.
Obama, who previously received Bachelet in the White House in 2009 during her first term as Chile’s president, praised her work on behalf of women in recent years in the UN, and joked that she is his “second favorite Michelle,” a reference to his wife, first lady Michelle Obama.
For her part, Bachelet expressed her willingness to expand the “very strong and mature relation” her country maintains with the United States and “to increase our cooperation in areas that are very sensible,” such as education, energy, science and technology.
“This year, I think we are commemorating 10 years of the free trade agreement from the U.S. and Chile. And the U.S. is our, I would say, our most important foreign investor,” she said.
“We want to continue that path,” Bachelet said.
Neither Obama nor Bachelet mentioned negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
While Obama wants to give a note of urgency to the negotiations in order to get the pact approved before the U.S. mid-term elections in November, the Bachelet government has somewhat distanced itself from the accord, raising doubts about its benefits for Chile.