Amid Crisis, Rousseff Seeks Closer Ties with the U.S.

April 20, 2015

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Paulo Sotero – The Huffington Post, 4/17/2015

Confronted by calls for her impeachment in street protests fueled by a deteriorating economy and a deepening investigation on massive corruption at state oil giant Petrobras, a weakened President Dilma Rousseff sees improving relations with the United States as part of the solution to Brazil’s and her own mounting challenges.

Following a Saturday April 11 meeting with president Barack Obama at the Summit of the Americas, in Panama, Rousseff said concerns caused by the 2013 revelations of the National Security Agency surveillance activities in Brazil were resolved and confirmed she will visit Washington this year. The announcement of the June 30th gathering at the White House put the Brazil-U.S. dialogue back on track following a period of estrangement that cost the U.S. the loss of a major defense contract and frustrated plans to elevate Brazil-U.S. relations to a new level of engagement.

Praised by Rousseff for his decision to normalize U.S. relations with Cuba, the American leader has scored points by enhancing U.S. ties with its largest regional neighbor at a time when Brazil is experiencing its most severe political and economic crisis in two decades. Rousseff’s official visit to the U.S. will not have the frills of the state visit planned for October 2013, which was derailed by the NSA revelations, but was welcomed by the business communities and economic officials in both countries, who hope it will send a positive reassuring message to markets and help to restore investors’ confidence in Brazil.

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


Exclusive: U.S. bets on Brazil, extends new invitation to Rousseff

March 24, 2015

Brian Winter – Reuters, 3/24/2015

The Obama administration has again invited Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff for a state visit to Washington, a diplomatic breakthrough that both sides hope will lead over time to greater trade between the two biggest economies in the Americas.

Rousseff had originally been scheduled to make a state visit, which involves a black-tie dinner at the White House and is considered the strongest expression of friendly ties between allies, in October 2013.

But the leftist leader canceled her trip after she was angered by revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spied on her personal communications. She said it was “incompatible” with a relationship among allies.

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Brazil-US Relations: Common Ideas, Little Dialogue

February 20, 2015

Monica de Bolle – The Huffington Post, 2/20/2015

It is unfortunate that Brazilian-American relations have become strained in recent years. This sense of frustration is further enhanced by the fact that the two largest countries in the Americas have very similar agendas when it comes to tackling inequality and income disparity. President Obama’s proposals towards “middle-class economics” and the recently released Economic Report of the President for 2015 highlight just how close the two countries are in their thinking about these issues and on how to make economic policies work more equitably for everyone. And yet, rather than coming together, the distance between the two countries has widened.

President Dilma Rousseff’s newly reelected government has vowed to rebalance Brazil’s economy – plagued by fiscal disarray and mounting inflation – in a way that preserves the legacy of the PT (Brazil’s Workers’ Party) achieved over last twelve years: the impressive social inclusion that has raised millions from the lowest ranks of the income distribution to the middle class. Aided by the macroeconomic stabilization of the 1990s and the unprecedented favorable external conditions that dominated the economic landscape between 2004 and 2010, the PT governments have set in motion their own version of “middle-class economics.” Remarkable social mobility took hold, and many were able to raise their overall quality of life as a result of targeted cash transfer programs such as “Bolsa-Família,” as well as specific programs aimed at allowing working mothers to remain in the marketplace and programs to help small and medium entrepreneurs tap into credit markets, among many other initiatives.

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Brazil’s Red-Scare Nostalgia

December 3, 2014

Vanessa Barbara – The New York Times, 12/3/2014

Last month, more than 142,000 Brazilians signed a petition on the White House website. They asked President Obama to take a stand against the “Bolivarian Communist expansion in Brazil promoted by the administration of Dilma Rousseff.”

She had just been re-elected president by a narrow margin: 51.4 percent against 48.5 percent for the more conservative candidate, Aécio Neves. The petitioners claim that the election wasn’t fully democratic, since electronic voting machines aren’t reliable. They also say that poor people voted for Ms. Rousseff only because of their heavy dependence on social welfare programs, such as Bolsa Família, a monthly family allowance designed to reduce poverty. Those who demand Mr. Obama’s intervention fear that our country will soon become a new Venezuela and call themselves “the promoters of democracy and freedom in Brazil” though, in a slight contradiction, some of them want the military dictatorship back.

According to a recent poll by Datafolha, more Brazilians identify with right-wing ideas, like looser gun restrictions, than they did last year. Although 58 percent of Brazilians believe that poverty relates to a lack of opportunities, 37 percent insist that laziness is the main cause of it. This was a major point of debate during the election: One side argued for meritocracy and less government aid; the other, for more public spending to reduce inequality.

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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

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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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