- (Foto: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
President Barack Obama will be attending the Summit of the Americas in Colombia this weekend, while looking to increase his support from the Latino community in the United States.
Before arriving in South America, Obama will stop by in Tampa, Florida, a state known for its strong Hispanic presence.
"Florida, I think, is both an economic and people-to-people hub in terms of connecting the United States and Latin America," said Ben Rhodes, Obama's administration deputy national security adviser.
Colombian citizens as well as U.S. Hispanics are waiting in great expectation for the president's visit, and will be analyzing closely how he addresses their major concerns.
During his first term as U.S. president Obama has focused much of his international work in developing economic ties with Asian countries, as well as addressing conflicts in the Middle East. This has led to criticism in some quarters that he has left investment plans in Latin America on the sidelines.
Others also feel he has not fully addressed the needs of the Hispanic community in the United States. In particular, some have highlighted topics such as immigration, as well as other important issues in Latin America, such as the controversial embargo on Cuba and the war on drugs, as areas that need closer attention.
According to the Inter-American Dialogue, a center for policy analysis, the position of the U.S. government "on these troublesome issues –immigration, drug policy, and Cuba - has set Washington against the consensus view of the hemisphere's other 34 governments."
Addressing these issues will be vital if Obama is to attract the Hispanic vote needed to win in states like Florida, Colorado and Nevada during the upcoming elections in November.
Hispanics make up 16 percent of the total U.S. population, totaling more than 50 million people, according to the think tank Pew Hispanic Center. From those figures, Mexicans represent the largest group with more than 31 million people, followed by Puerto Ricans with more than 4 million, and Salvadorians with 1.7 million people, according to a 2009 study.
About 22 million are eligible to vote in November when Obama seeks re-election.
"Gaining the Hispanic vote is so important in a few critical states. He's got to do his utmost to show not only his interest but his presidential stature," said Stephen Wayne, professor at Georgetown University.
This will be Obama's fourth visit to Latin America during his term. Previously he has traveled to Brazil, Chile and El Salvador.