Clinton’s Latin America trip: all about Iran?

Clinton’s Latin America trip: all about Iran?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has added an unplanned stop to her Latin America itinerary: Buenos Aires. The U.S. delegation will stay overnight in Argentina Monday instead of Chile, where the government is still preoccupied with the aftermath of Saturday’s devastating earthquake.

"Instead of overnighting in Santiago on Monday night we will travel from Montevideo [Uruguay] Monday afternoon to Buenos Aires in order to meet with Argentine President [Cristina Fernández] de Kirchner, instead of in Uruguay as originally planned," a State Department official on the trip said.

Clinton was in Uruguay this weekend to attend the inauguration of Jose Mujica, a former guerrilla leader turned president. The Kirchner meeting was originally supposed to happen in Montevideo, but was changed after the Chilean earthquake caused Clinton’s team to re-examine her travel plans.

Although Latin American countries are no doubt hoping to discuss a range of bilateral issues, Clinton is more likely to focus on the renewed international efforts to pressure Iran regarding its nuclear program. "Iran is at the top of my agenda," Clinton told a Senate committee last week when talking about her trip.

She might find the going tough, particularly in Brazil, which currently holds a seat on the Security Council. Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim recently poured cold war on the U.S.-led sanctions push, saying, "We don’t believe that sanctions will prove effective." Under Secretary Bill Burns, the State Department’s lead on the issue, visited the Brazilian capital ahead of the Clinton trip, but it’s not clear what he was able to achieve.

Clinton will be in Brasilia Wednesday to meet directly with President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva and Amorim. Assistant Secretary Arturo Valenzuela previewed Friday what Clinton’s message will be when it comes to Iran.

"While we’re cognizant of the fact that the Brazilian government has reached out to Iran and has been approaching the Iranians, it’s very much on our agenda to try to insist with the Brazilians that in their engagement with Iran, we would like them to encourage the Iranians, of course, to meet their international obligations," he said, adding that the State Department views Brazil’s opposition to new sanctions as a "mistake."