U.S. House Speaker John Boehner toured a Rio de Janeiro shantytown that police recently seized from drug traffickers as he kicked off a trade-boosting trip to Latin America on Monday.
He leads a seven-member congressional delegation that will visit the top three U.S. export markets in Latin America _ Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.
Joining the Ohio Republican are Reps. Dave Camp of Michigan, Doc Hastings of Washington, John Kline of Minnesota, Dan Boren of Oklahoma, Devin Nunes of California and Greg Walden of Oregon. The representatives planned to meet with federal officials in Brasilia on Tuesday.
The three nations together import billions of dollars in American-made products yearly. Reinforcing that relationship is especially important to the U.S. at a time when its economy is struggling, Boehner said in a statement.
In particular, the delegation will assess the implementation of the Colombia free trade agreement and its impact on job creation in the United States, and look at steps taken by Latin American countries to foster jobs and economic growth at home.
During the Rio de Janeiro visit, the delegation met with state security chief Jose Mariano Beltrame, who outlined plans to boost security before the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
The shantytown toured by the representatives was seized from drug traffickers in November, ending decades of criminal control. In the program's three years, 19 permanent "police pacification units" have been created, serving slums housing 280,000 people. Most of the newly protected areas border Rio's wealthy oceanside suburbs or surround the Maracana, Rio's iconic stadium.
"What's happening here is a great example of how they can bring everyone into society as a whole, and where everyone has a chance to be treated equally," Boehner said.