U.S. tries to repair relationship with Brazil

December 16, 2013

Mimi Whitefield – The Miami Herald, 12/13/2013

Despite pique in some exile circles when President Barack Obama shook hands earlier this week with Cuban President Raúl Castro, a top U.S. diplomat for the Americas said Friday that she was watching his greeting of another president more closely.

The handshake drama took place on Tuesday at a memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg. On his way to the rostrum, Obama had to navigate past not only Castro but also Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. She has been on prickly terms with Washington since revelations earlier this year that the National Security Agency had monitored her emails and conversations.

“The whole world was clearly looking at the greeting for Raúl Castro, but I was much more interested in who was standing next to Raúl Castro and what the greeting was going to be like with Dilma Rousseff,’’ said Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson during a meeting Friday with reporters and editors from the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald.

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Brazilian president Rousseff launches tirade against US over NSA surveillance

September 24, 2013

Julian Borger – The Guardian, 09/24/2013

Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, has launched a blistering attack on US espionage at the UN general assembly, accusing the NSA of violating international law by its indiscriminate collection of personal information of Brazilian citizens and economic espionage targeted on the country’s strategic industries.

Rousseff’s angry speech was a direct challenge to President Barack Obama, who was waiting in the wings to deliver his own address to the UN general assembly, and represented the most serious diplomatic fallout to date from the revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Rousseff had already put off a planned visit to Washington in protest at US spying, after NSA documents leaked by Snowden revealed that the US electronic eavesdropping agency had monitored the Brazilian president’s phone calls, as well as Brazilian embassies and spied on the state oil corporation, Petrobras.

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While only a postponement, Dilma can come out winning twice

September 18, 2013

Paulo Sotero – O Estado de S. Paulo, 09/18/2013


If the decision taken by the office of the president this Tuesday, September 17th, results in a postponement, not a cancelation of Dilma Rousseff’s state visit to Washington, the bilateral relationship can benefit from the incident provoked by the NSA espionage on Brazil.  For now, we are left with Barack Obama’s embarrassment and Dilma’s frustration, who worked in recent years to reestablish dialogue with Washington – deteriorated at the end of Lula’s government—and who believes that a more productive relationship with the U.S. helps Brazil.

The postponement of the visit will benefit the Brazilian leader twice. Now, by demonstrating that she does not allow incidents like these to go unnoticed, and later, during the visit, by showing that it will only take place once present difficulties are overcome. To meet this end, Obama and Dilma will have to promote an honest and effective dialogue to create a climate of mutual trust which has currently dissipated but without which stronger relations will not be possible.

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Did Brazil’s president just knock down US influence a notch or two?

September 18, 2013

James Norton – Christian Science Monitor, 09/18/2013

The decision of Brazil‘s President Dilma Rousseff to forgo a planned October state visit to the United States is being portrayed by the White House as a mutually decided-upon postponement. Worldwide, however, that view gets little play: The cancellation is seen by many as a dismissal of the US in response to revelations about its wide-reaching National Security Agency surveillance programs.

The Associated Press framed the decision as the latest in a series of bad jolts for President Obama:

“The real issue becomes, How does this affect American influence in the world?” said Carl Meacham, director of the Americas program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Is American influence knocked down a few notches as a result of this?” He called Rousseff’s action “almost unheard of.”

The most recent NSA program in question is the hacking of Brazil’s oil company, Petrobras, which came to light as part of the leak of classified documents by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden. President Rousseff said on Monday that such spying amounts to industrial espionage, and was quoted by Reuters as saying: “Clearly, Petrobras is not a threat to the security of any country.”

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Brazil to U.S.: help us move past NSA controversy

September 11, 2013

Brian Winter – Reuters, 09/10/2013

President Dilma Rousseff is eager to end a diplomatic crisis with Washington over revelations the National Security Agency spied on her and other Brazilians, but first she wants protection against additional leaks that could embarrass her government, a senior Brazilian official told Reuters.

A steady stream of news reports since July, based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, have detailed how the United States spied on a wide range of commercial and governmental targets in Brazil.

While many countries have been named as targets in the Snowden documents, the revelations have been especially sensitive here because Rousseff, a moderate leftist, is due on October 23 to make the first formal state visit to the White House by a Brazilian leader in nearly two decades.

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Brazil said to cancel trip to U.S. to prepare meeting with Obama

September 5, 2013

Arnaldo Galvao – Bloomberg, 09/04/2013

Brazilian authorities have canceled a trip to Washington that was designed to prepare for President Dilma Rousseff’s state visit next month in response to charges the U.S. spied on the South American nation.

Brazilian officials originally scheduled the trip for Sept. 7 to 11 to organize the details of Rousseff’s state visit, according to a government official who is close to the president and asked not to be named because the information isn’t official. He didn’t know whether Rousseff would cancel her trip in October.

Brazil’s government want the U.S. to respond this week to a report the National Security Agency used software to probe Rousseff’s communications with several aides, Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo told reporters in Brasilia Sept. 2. The spying, if true, would be “inadmissible and unacceptable,” he said.

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Brazil’s Rousseff wants U.S. apology for NSA spying

September 5, 2013

Brian Winter – Reuters, 09/04/2013

Furious about a report that the U.S. government spied on her private communications, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff may cancel a planned White House visit and downgrade commercial ties unless she receives a public apology, a senior Brazilian official told Reuters on Wednesday.

A Brazilian news program reported on Sunday that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on emails, phone calls and text messages of Rousseff and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. The report by Globo TV was based on documents leaked by fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Rousseff is due to make a formal state visit to Washington next month to meet U.S. President Barack Obama and discuss a possible $4 billion jet-fighter deal, cooperation on oil and biofuels technology, as well as other commercial agreements.

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NSA leak might lead to cancellation of Brazil state visit

September 4, 2013

Tim Johnson & Vinod Sreeharsha – McClatchy, 09/03/2013

Revelations of a U.S. spy program that allegedly allows digital surveillance of the presidents of Brazil and Mexico have drawn cries of indignation and anger in both nations, but the fallout may be strongest for U.S.-Brazil relations.

At stake is whether Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will cancel a planned state visit to Washington in October, the first offered by President Barack Obama this year, or will take action on digital security that may affect U.S. companies such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo.

Brazil’s O Globo television network reported Sunday night that the National Security Agency had spied on the emails, telephone calls and text messages of Rousseff and President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico. The report was based on documents obtained by journalist Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, from Edward Snowden, a fugitive former NSA contractor who’s living in Moscow.

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Dilma goes to Washington

August 29, 2013

Paulo Sotero -O Estado de S. Paulo, 08/27/2013

With two months ahead of President Dilma Rousseff’s state visit to the United States in October, expectations that the event would deepen and strengthen relations between the countries have already vanished after Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota publicly questioned Secretary of State, John Kerry, about the NSA monitoring of Brazil’s communications. The mood was further soured with the arrest of David Miranda by Scotland Yard in London under the anti-terrorism law. Miranda is the Brazilian partner of Glenn Greenwald, the American journalist based in Rio de Janeiro who revealed information about NSA activities collected by Edward Snowden.  In this environment, agreements that have been discussed and were planned to be announced on October 23rd in Washington have become complicated.

This episode certainly reduced the space for rhetorical exaggerations to take place, which tend to be commonplace during these events. This is not a bad thing. Realism and transparency in the dialogue between Washington and Brasilia are necessary instruments to make Dilma Rousseff’s visit a substantive one and to help make the bilateral relationship more productive. Hence, Barack Obama’s decisions to reevaluate NSA practices, which are under heavy scrutiny in the U.S., and Kerry’s recognition of the necessity to respond to questions posed by Brazil’s government, are very positive. Officials from political and technical realms of both countries have already initiated meetings about NSA activities. American sources admit that greater transparency with allied countries that were affected by NSA electronic espionage would have neutralized reactions to Snowden’s revelations.

Read original article in Portuguese here.

Paulo Sotero is the Director of the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Where do relations between the U.S. and Brazil stand today?

June 10, 2013

Paulo Sotero - Inter-American Dialogue Latin America Advisor, 06/10/2013

Q: During a recent three-day visit to Brazil, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called for stronger ties between the two countries in areas such as education, technology, science and trade and said that 2013 will usher in a new era in bilateral relations between the countries. Where do U.S.-Brazil relations stand today? What’s been holding back stronger trade and economic ties to date, and what makes the vice president say 2013 will be much different? What are the most sensitive aspects of the bilateral relationship today that could derail closer ties in the future?

A: Paulo Sotero, director of the Brazil Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars:“After derailing in the wake of Brazil and Turkey’s failed mediation efforts on the Iranian nuclear program in 2010, Brazil-U.S. relations were put on a constructive path by Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Barack Obama. It has produced a few presidential meetings, policy framework initiatives and a tax information exchange agreement. The door is open for more. Vice President Biden’s statement reflects the optimistic view generated by the improved relationship, which is also illustrated by Obama’s invitation to Dilma Rousseff to make a state visit to Washington in late October, the first by a Brazilian president in more than 18 years. Obviously, the visit could generate exaggerated expectations, which carry their own risks. Whether Biden’s view will materialize depends on the presidential leadership of both countries to move the relationship beyond process and symbolism towards concrete and consequential decisions in key areas. As Brazil’s underperforming economy pressures the government to adopt an investment-driven economic growth agenda, there is a clear need and ample opportunities to further Brazil-U.S. bilateral cooperation with consequential agreements in science, technology, space, education, energy, defense, tax, investment and trade. A deal that would include the purchase of Boeing jet fighters by Brazil, mentioned as a possibility in press reports after Biden’s visit, is an example of a potential positive development in strategic engagement that would strengthen ties in a key high-value supply chain where Embraer is already present. In any case, the notion underlining the question, that bilateral Brazil-U.S. bilateral relations are headed to a new derailment, is obviously misplaced.”

Read full article here…


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