President Barack Obama and family arrive in Buenos Aires. (Reuters/Marcos Brindicci)
The Argentine government increased security for the visit of President Barack Obama who arrived in Buenos Aires early Wednesday, less than 24 hours after multiple attacks in Brussels left 34 dead and hundreds injured.
Security measures included completely shutting down several subway lines, along with cordoning off streets where Obama will travel and around events at which he and First Lady Michelle Obama will participate, reported The Associated Press. While some closures were initially announced, the number jumped after the Brussels attacks. Authorities also said they are raising the level of alert along the borders.
The closures snarled traffic in Buenos Aires. Many residents of Argentina’s largest city decided to take the day off or work from home.
While not as significant as his visit to Cuba earlier in the week, CNN said, Obama’s stop in Argentina is seen as symbolic of a growing thaw in the region prompted by opening ties to Havana.
CNN said that despite the terror attacks that ripped through Brussels and dominated headlines Tuesday, the White House made clear that Obama planned to continue with his trip and complete his full schedule in Argentina.
A military band played as Obama arrived at the Casa Rosada, the pink-tinged building that is Argentina’s equivalent of the White House, to meet with Argentine President Mauricio Macri, said the AP.
An honor guard with swords and red epaulets saluted with white-gloved hands as they waited for Obama on red carpets laid out on the black-and-white marble floors.
Obama and Macri sat together in Macri’s office, joined by their delegations. Macri sat in front of a U.S. flag and Obama sat in front of the Argentine flag. They made no comments to reporters who were allowed a brief glimpse at the start of the meeting, noted the AP
Obama’s two-day visit marks a rapprochement after more than a decade of sour relations and is a sign of support for Macri’s investor-friendly reforms aimed at opening up Latin America’s No. 3 economy, reported Reuters.
U.S. officials have been keen to promote Macri as a leader in a region where for the past 10 years a socialist bloc turned its back on the United States and once high-flying leftist governments now face corruption scandals and economic weakness.
Obama’s visit represents “a 180 degree turn in relations between Argentina and the United States,” the Clarin newspaper said in a headline, said Reuters.
Thousands of Argentinians lined the streets of Buenos Aires and the Avenida del Libertador, a main thoroughfare through the city, to catch a glimpse of Obama’s motorcade on a crisp, sunny morning, said the AP.
After the meeting and a news conference with Macri, Obama planned to hold a town hall with Argentine youth.
In the evening, he’ll attend a state dinner in his honor.