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Biden heads to Brazil for World Cup, then begins diplomacy tour of South and Central America

NATAL — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden begins a four-nation trip across Latin America on Monday, starting with some World Cup action at the US-Ghana game in Brazil.

Biden will fly directly to the flood-stricken city of Natal to cheer on the United States as they face the Black Stars in their first Group G clash on Monday.

Authorities said they would declare a “public disaster” in the northeastern Brazilian city after dozens of homes were damaged but that the flooding would not disrupt the game.

Biden will then fly to Brasilia, where he will meet President Dilma Rousseff and Vice President Michel Temer on Tuesday in a continuing effort to patch up relations strained by revelations of massive U.S. spying.

Rousseff canceled a state visit to Washington last year following revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that U.S. agencies have been spying on her country.

In an interview with Brazilian daily Folha de Sao Paulo, Biden said he “made clear” to Rousseff in a May 8 telephone conversation that he and US President Barack Obama “are committed to advancing the bilateral relationship with Brazil.”

After Brazil, Biden will head to Bogota, two days after President Juan Manuel Santos was re-elected in a tight run-off race seen as a thumbs-up to peace talks between his government and Colombia’s two leftist guerrilla groups.

Biden will then make his first trip to the Dominican Republic to discuss issues including energy security.

He added a visit to Guatemala at the last minute to meet with the country’s president, the leader of El Salvador and a senior Honduran official.

The leaders will address concerns about a soaring number of unaccompanied Central American children who are crossing the US-Mexico border as they flee gang violence and poverty back home, US officials said.

The surge “is an issue of great concern to us,” a US official said on condition of anonymity.

“We’re seeing growing numbers of children under 12 and girls in the latest surge. Our top priority is to manage this urgent humanitarian situation.”

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