On Wednesday Biden is expected to visit an installation of Brazil’s national oil company, Petrobras, in Rio de Janeiro. Brazil is trying to develop deepwater oil and gas fields, known as the “pre-salt” finds that potentially have huge reserves but are located in very deep water.
“The Brazilian government is trying to signal globally that they are very interested in securing investment in the whole process, to find the oil, extract it and then trade it,” said Matias Spektor, a professor of international relations at Rio de Janeiro’s Fundação Getúlio Vargas.
Spektor noted that Brazil has neither the funding nor the capacity to explore the pre-salt fields alone and is in search of partners.
International observers in Brazil also see the Biden visit as paving the way for a state visit, possibly in October, by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. Though Rousseff has visited Washington before, it would be the first official state visit by a Brazilian head of state to the United States in almost two decades, they note.
From a geo-political viewpoint, some believe that Brazil is the most important stop on Biden’s tour. He is scheduled to spend three days in the South American nation, discussing not just bilateral matters but multilateral concerns as well.
“Brazil has found its voice internationally,” Farnsworth said. “We have to have a better understanding of how we can work together.”
This will be Biden’s fourth visit to Latin America since becoming vice president, and it builds on President Obama’s recent visit to Mexico and Costa Rica. Administration officials say it’s the “latest demonstration of the United States’ commitment to reinforcing our partnerships in the Americas.”
That partnership, however, hasn’t always been smooth. Caribbean leaders often complain about being neglected and taken for granted by the United States. And last month after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry angered a number of people by referring to Latin America as “our backyard,” Bolivia’s President Evo Morales expelled USAID, the U.S. development agency, from his nation in retaliation.
Still, the visit offers huge opportunities for leaders to discuss issues of mutual interest.
Anton Edmunds, a Caribbean business consultant, said absent a meeting with Obama himself, Biden is perhaps best positioned to plead the region’s case.
“If there is anybody who can carry some water for the Caribbean, it may well be the vice president,” Edmunds said, noting Biden’s long years as a U.S. senator.
McClatchy White House Correspondent Lesley Clark contributed to this report from Washington, D.C. Charles reported from Miami and Barnes from São Paulo.