• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Obama lauds Chile's democracy, open society

March 21, 2011 12:18:10 AM PDT
President Barack Obama praised Chile's vibrant democracy and open society during a news conference with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Monday.

Obama was taking questions from reporters for the first time since authorizing U.S. military action Moammar Gadhafi's defenses on Saturday. In his opening remarks he sought to bring the focus back to his mission in Latin America, one of drawing America closer to its southern neighbors to boost cooperation and yield economic benefits for both.

"In our interconnected world the security and prosperity of people's are intertwined like never before, and no region is more closely linked than the U.S. and Latin America," Obama said.

The president is traveling with the first family. They were in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday and visited the famous Christ the Redeemer" statue.

Much of Obama's public diplomacy has been overshadowed by the use of military power in Libya. During his stop in Brazil, he balanced outreach to an increasingly influential Latin American neighbor with meetings and secure phone calls to approve missile attacks on Libya's air defenses.

En route to Chile, Obama was briefed on the operation in Libya during an hour-long conference call with top U.S. officials.

The brief 24-hour visit to Chile is the second country in the president's three-nation, five-day tour of Latin America.

The first family heads to El Salvador next.