Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Chile Friday to begin his four-day trip to South and Central America, where he will consult with Latin American leaders to discuss a variety of issues, including the upcoming Summit of the Americas.

In Chile, Biden will attend the Progressive Governance conference, which will be attended by the Presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, and the Prime Ministers of Spain, Norway and the United Kingdom.

He will also hold bilateral meetings with Uruguay's President Tabare Vazquez; Argentina's President Christina Fernandez de Kirchner; British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Chile's President Michelle Bachelet.

In an op-ed piece written by Biden published in several Latin American newspapers Friday, the vice president said these meetings are an important first step toward a new day in relations and building partnerships with and among the countries and people of the hemisphere.

The president and I understand, Biden continued, that only by working together can our countries overcome the challenges we face.

Biden said that, among the issues he will discuss with the leaders, the global economic crisis and the security for all nations of the Americas were of particular importance.

Rekindling the US economy and ensuring that international financial institutions serve the interests of the people are particularly important for the Americas, Biden said.

Our economic interconnection means that a robust US economy is good for the hemisphere and can become an engine for bottom up economic growth and equality throughout the region.

We also face dual challenges of security, Biden added, both for our countries and for the individuals who inhabit them.

Our countries are plagued by gang violence and the illegal trafficking of weapons and narcotics.

The trip is scheduled to last until Monday, with Biden expected to arrive back in Washington, DC by Monday evening.

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