Obama arrives in Argentina in historic state visit

KONFRONTASI - US President Barack Obama has arrived in Argentina to reset diplomatic relations after decades of hostility.

Obama and the first family landed in the capital, Buenos Aires, on Wednesday morning amid heightened security a day after the terrorist bombings in Brussels.

The US president is scheduled to meet with Argentinean President Mauricio Macri in the presidential palace to discuss trade, investment, and energy.

The heads of state will proceed to lay a wreath at the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral, where Pope Francis served as archbishop.

“I think that the gesture of President Obama’s visit is very important for us because it shows the interest and the priority of the US administration,” Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra said in a press conference Monday.

President Macri waves during the inauguration of the 134th period of ordinary sessions at the Congress in Buenos Aires on March 1, 2016. (AFP photo)

Thousands of people plan to protest Obama’s appearance on March 24, which coincides with the 40th anniversary of a 1976 right-wing coup that had the tacit support of the United States.

“The timing of the visit is a provocation,” said Miguel Funes, a lawmaker from former President Cristina Fernandez’ Front for Victory party.

The United States initially backed the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983. Some 30,000 people were killed in a bloody crackdown against leftist opponents and labor unions.

President Macri took office in December last year vowing to restore relations with the US, a task that could prove difficult as half of the population did not vote for him.

In his first 100 days in office, Macri eased capital and trade restrictions, cut bloated power subsidies and reached a debt agreement with creditors in the United States. The president has accused his predecessor, Fernandez, of over-hiring, and has cut spending and jobs across government agencies.

Obama speaks to Cuban President Raul Castro (R) during a Major League baseball exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team at the Latinoamericano stadium in Havana on March 22, 2016. (AFP photo)

Obama’s trip to Argentina follows his historic three-day visit to Cuba, where he pledged to “bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas.”