While only a postponement, Dilma can come out winning twice

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.

The argument that the postponement of the visit was politically motivated is weak. Assuming that the President’s office plans on rescheduling the visit for April or May of next year, Dilma will have to be doing extremely well in the public opinion polls. If not, Washington will resist, arguing that it does not wish to become involved in a presidential race.

In this case, or in the event that the visit be postponed until 2015, those who recommended to Dilma during the last two weeks to make strong political statements, such as bringing the ambassador in Washington back to Brazil or simply canceling the visit, will have to prove their case that having a fractured relationship with the U.S. will lead to more votes among the growing middle class, which likes to emulate American customs and habits, and will most likely decide the next elections.

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

Read article in Portuguese here.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Dilmarousseff

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