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US VP Biden visits Brazil to push trade, security

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden gives a thumbs up after giving a speech in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, May 29, 2013. Biden is in Brazil on the last leg of a six-day swing through Latin America and the Caribbean to boost trade, security and diplomatic relations. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden lavished praise on the advances Brazil has made in recent years, saying during a Wednesday speech that the Latin American giant is no longer a developing nation, but one that is developed and the envy of many for its leaps forward.

Biden is on the final leg of a six-day swing through Latin America and the Caribbean, a trip meant to foster deeper trade and diplomatic ties and pave the way for a state visit to the U.S. by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff later this year.

"No longer can Brazil talk about being an 'emerging' country. You have emerged, you have engaged and you have had a positive impact on the world," Biden said, citing the country as an example in terms of food security and the recent write-off of about $900 million in African debt. "Brazil has long since taken its place as one of the world's leaders. It is the seventh-largest economy in the world — bigger than India and bigger than Russia," said the vice president.

Biden met with officials from state-run energy company Petrobras after his speech at the Maua pier in downtown Rio, continuing a push on energy issues that he also addressed during earlier stops in Trinidad & Tobago and Colombia.

In Washington, the White House said it will roll out the red carpet to welcome Rousseff for a state visit in October. Rousseff and Obama met at the White House in April 2012, and during Obama's visit to Brazil two years ago.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Rousseff's Oct. 23 visit will also include the first state dinner of Obama's second term, an important diplomatic acknowledgment of Brazil's growing might.

Brazil emerged from a 1964-85 military dictatorship only to be hit with repeated economic crises and hyper-inflation that most harshly punished the impoverished, widening an already yawning gap between rich and poor. But an economic plan put in place in the mid-1990s by former leader Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and massive social spending implemented by Rousseff's predecessor and political mentor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, have helped transform Brazil.

"In 20 years you have written a great story. You broke inflation. Lifted 40 million people out of poverty and into the middle class," Biden said mentioning Brazil's social programs such as "Zero Hunger" which he said are "studied and copied around the world."

"The rest of the world looks at you with envy," he added. "You can no longer claim you are a developing nation. You have developed and with that comes the responsibility to speak up."

Biden planned to tour a slum on Thursday before a meeting with Rousseff on Friday in Brasilia.

Earlier this week in Colombia, Biden praised that government's security advances. He arrived in Brazil from Trinidad & Tobago where he met with leaders from across the Caribbean to sign a trade agreement.