RIO DE JANEIRO -- Immersing himself in Brazil's poverty and pride, President Barack Obama held up the South American nation Sunday as a model of democratic change in a time of uprisings and crackdowns across the Arab world and yet another warfront for the United States.
From Rio's glamorous beaches to a notorious slum to an elegant theater, Obama glimpsed the city's cultural extremes and offered the kind of personal engagement that can pay political dividends. Less than a day after announcing U.S. military strikes against Libya, Obama made time to kick a soccer ball around with kids in a shantytown.
In a speech, Obama celebrated Brazil as a place that has shifted from dictatorship to democracy, moving millions into its middle class and embracing human rights. He underlined that point as unrest sweeps the Middle East and north Africa, leading to dramatic change in some cases and violent crisis in Libya.
Obama and his family visited the City of God shantytown that gained fame through a movie of the same name. The slum is undergoing a transformation as Rio works to improve the plight of its poorest people and clean up its reputation ahead of hosting the 2016 summer Olympics.
Obama, his wife Michelle and their daughters, Malia and Sasha, watched young children pound on drums and perform a dazzling acrobatic dance. They were to fly to Santiago, Chile, this morning. -- AP