President Barack Obama has cancelled a public speech he was scheduled to deliver Sunday in Rio’s main square during his visit to Brazil, the US embassy in Brasilia said.
The speech in the historic plaza known as Cinelandia, in the heart of Rio de Janeiro, is cancelled said an embassy spokesperson.
Obama instead will deliver remarks at Rio's Municipal Theatre, the official said, without specifying whether it would be open to the public or exclusively for invited guests.
No explanation for the change of venue was given by the embassy.
Brazilian authorities have laid out a heavy security presence for Obama's two-day visit and police in Rio had closed numerous streets from midnight Thursday in preparation.
Cinelândia is in the centre of Rio, surrounded by important buildings, such as the National Library, the Municipal Theatre and the Rio de Janeiro City Legislative Assembly (Câmera dos Vereadores). It is a kind of Brazilian Hyde Park - a traditional location for political demonstrations and speeches - and Times Square.
The large plaza was originally in front of a convent (Convento da Ajuda) built around 1750. At the beginning of the 20th century an urban modernization movement took place in Rio. The convent was demolished (in 1911) and a wide avenue was built (now Rio Branco) along with a series of skyscrapers that all had movie theatres on the ground floor, hence the name, Cinelândia. Of course, most of the cinemas have closed, but the area remains a vibrant and busy area.
In this speech, similar to other public speeches he gave in Berlin (2008) and Cairo (2009), Obama is expected to send a message not only to his listeners in Brazil, but to the world. He will certainly emphasize the fact that Brazil and the United States are large, diverse democracies with shared historical experiences and similar dreams for the future. He will hold the two countries up as positive examples of what democratic government, economic freedom and progressive social policy can achieve.
The speech was scheduled for Sunday afternoon (March 20). One possibility for the cancellation is the matter of security. The fact is that security in Cinelândia has always been an issue (it is a very large open area surrounded on almost all sides by skyscrapers).
Security concerns boiled up again after the United Nations Security Council voted to authorize military action in Libya.