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


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.

Um novo contexto na relação Brasil-EUA

Paulo Sotero – O Estado de S. Paulo, 12/30/2014

Três fatos novos alteraram, potencialmente para melhor, o ambiente para uma reaproximação entre Washington e Brasília, esperada no segundo mandato de Dilma Rousseff. A expectativa americana nesse sentido será reiterada pela presença do vice-presidente Joe Biden na segunda posse de Dilma – o mais alto nível de representação dos Estados Unidos no evento inaugural de governos no Brasil em um quarto de século. Dois dos três novos fatos foram gerados no Brasil.

Brasília deixou de insistir publicamente num pedido de desculpas de Washington pela espionagem da National Security Agency (NSA), que envolveu a Petrobrás, entre outros, depois que a Operação Lava Jato expôs os crimes perpetrados por funcionários e executivos brasileiros contra a estatal. O episódio, que fez a líder brasileira cancelar visita de Estado aos EUA em 2013, parece, assim, superado.

Multinacional que opera nos EUA, a Petrobrás enfrenta hoje inquéritos de duas agências federais americanas sobre possíveis desdobramentos dos crimes revelados pelas investigações no Brasil. Processos iniciados por investidores que se veem lesados pela roubalheira, como a cidade de Providence, em Rhode Island, devem multiplicar-se. A reputação de integridade pessoal de Dilma e o apoio explícito que ela vem dando à atuação da Polícia Federal, do Ministério Público e da Justiça Federal no petrolão são bem-vistos em Washington. Indicam a disposição da presidente de não deixar que a relação bilateral seja contaminada pelas investigações do escândalo nos EUA, que podem ter desfechos muito ruins para a Petrobrás e seus executivos, independentemente da vontade da Casa Branca e do Planalto.

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

Brazil begins laying its own Internet cables to avoid U.S. surveillance

Nancy Scola – The Washington Post, 11/03/2014

There’s a new wrinkle in Brazil’s plan to build a $185 million undersea fiber-optic cable that would connect it to Portugal and help the country avoid surveillance by U.S. intelligence authorities, reports Bloomberg: The cable will be built without the help of any U.S. companies.

While Brazil arguably led the world’s outrage over the Edward Snowden disclosures, its ire has mellowed a bit in recent months. But that Brazilian authorities are still talking about a U.S.-free undersea link to Europe only underscores something that may be especially destructive to U.S. tech companies: Once you write foreign policy into fiber-optic cables, it stays that way for a long, long time.

To be sure, under President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil reacted strongly negatively, in ways big and little, to the Snowden disclosures in September 2013: Rousseff railed at the United Nations  about Brazil’s commitment to “redouble its efforts to adopt legislation, technologies and mechanisms to protect us from the illegal interception of communications and data.”

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Brazil Builds Internet Cable To Portugal To Avoid NSA Surveillance

Kathleen Caulderwood – International Business Times, 11/1/2014

Brazil is building a cable across the Atlantic to escape the reach of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The move is one of many ways the Brazilian government is breaking ties with American technology companies — but it won’t come cheap.

The 3,500-mile fiber-optic cable will stretch from Fortaleza to Portugal, with an estimated cost of $185 million, Bloomberg reported. Of course, none of this will go to American vendors.

Last year, Edward Snowden leaked documents that showed the NSA was accessing personal information of Brazilian citizens, including listening to phone calls of President Dilma Rousseff, its embassies and the state-owned oil company Petrobras.

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Brazilians to elect a new president in an atypically sour mood

Paulo Sotero – The Brazil Institute, 10/24/2014

With their country’s economy at a standstill, Brazilians go back to the polls this Sunday in an atypically sour mood to decide whether to extend the mandate of President Dilma Rousseff for four more years or replace her with Senator Aécio Neves, a popular former governor of Minas Gerais, Brazil’s second richest state after São Paulo. Opinion polls released this week showed Rousseff gaining on Neves for the first time, who pulled a stunning turnaround to end in second place in the October 5th first round of vote, way ahead of once favorite candidate, environmentalist Marina Silva. Failures in first round opinion polls were made. However, the unusual volatility of the race even made analysts that seemed convinced of Rousseff’s reelection hedge their bets by avoiding making definitive predictions. One pollster who worked for campaigns of gubernatorial candidates of the president’s coalition told former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva at a rally held in the Southern capital of Porto Alegre on Wednesday that his analyses indicated Aécio Neves could win the race.

Three weeks of second round campaigning that ended Friday, October 24th, with a nationally televised debate between the two contenders did little to lighten the poisonous political atmosphere created in the race’s initial 40-days of highly negative electoral tactics used by all major candidates, but especially by Rousseff’s camp. Continue reading “Brazilians to elect a new president in an atypically sour mood”

Declassified Documents Given By Biden to Rousseff Detail Secret Dictatorship-Era Executions, “Psychophysical” Torture in Brazil

Peter Kornbluh – The National Security Archives, 7/3/2014

Ato "Ditadura Nunca Mais: 50 anos do Golpe no Brasil" | DOI-CODI São Paulo SP - 31/03/2014

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ninja Midia.

The Brazilian military regime employed a “sophisticated and elaborate psychophysical duress system” to “intimidate and terrify” suspected leftist militants in the early 1970s, according to a State Department report dated in April 1973 and made public yesterday. Among the torture techniques used during the military era, the report detailed “special effects” rooms at Brazilian military detention centers in which suspects would be “placed nude” on a metal floor “through which electric current is pulsated.” Some suspects were “eliminated” but the press was told they died in “shoot outs” while trying to escape police custody. “The shoot-out technique is being used increasingly,” the cable sent by the U.S. Consul General in Rio de Janeiro noted, “in order to deal with the public relations aspect of eliminating subversives,” and to “obviate ‘death-by-torture’ charges in the international press.”

Because of the document’s unredacted precision, it is one of the most detailed reports on torture techniques ever declassified by the U.S. government.

Titled “Widespread Arrests and Psychophysical Interrogation of Suspected Subversives,” it was among 43 State Department cables and reports that Vice President Joseph Biden turned over to President Dilma Rousseff during his trip to Brazil for the World Cup competition on June 17, for use by the Brazilian National Truth Commission (CNV). The Commission is in the final phase of a two-year investigation of human rights atrocities during the military dictatorship which lasted from 1964 to 1985.  On July 2, 2014, the Commission posted all 43 documents on its website. “The CNV greatly appreciates the initiative of the U.S. government to make these records available to Brazilian society and hopes that this collaboration will continue to progress,” reads a statement on the Commission’s website.

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Brazil’s foreign policy stance leaves it in wings on global stage

Joe Leahy – The Financial Times, 4/20/2014

This month, Brazil marks a particularly grim moment in its history. Fifty years ago, the country’s military took power in a coup that ushered in two decades of brutal dictatorship.

President Dilma Rousseff, who as a young leftist guerrilla fighting the generals was jailed and tortured, marked the occasion with a speech at Rio de Janeiro’s Galeão airport earlier this month.

Shedding a quiet tear, she cited a song by the bossa nova artist Tom Jobim, “Samba do Avião”, that recalls the emotions of a Brazilian landing in Rio, saying the lyrics were about exiles returning home with the end of the military regime.

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Brazil takes a lead in the future of the Internet

Angelica Mari – Brazil Tech, 4/16/2014

The Brazilian government believes that it is in a strong position to lead the debate around global Internet governance and hopes to “energize” other countries to participate more actively in the future of the Net.

When debating the topics to be discussed at next week’s Internet governance event NETmundial, the information technology secretary at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation Virgílio Almeida, remarked that Brazil has the authority to be a leader in the subject of Internet governance.

“Not a lot of countries have a body like the [Brazilian Internet steering committee], which is a truly multistakeholder organization that has been in place for over 20 years and provided the source of the principles that will shape next week’s discussions,” Almeida told ZDNet.

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Interview with Ambassador Thomas Shannon: Large countries with ambitions need to assert themselves

Claudia Trevisan – Estado de S. Paulo, 3/30/2014

Former U.S. Ambassador to Brazil criticized the Brazilian government’s lack of a stance on the case of the annexation of Crimea.

Venezuela is divided internally and is also a source of polarization in the Americas, evaluated Thomas Shannon, counselor to the U.S. Department of State, who was ambassador to Brazil for four years. “The unwillingness of the countries in the hemisphere to deal with what is happening in Venezuela directly and in a public manner is a mistake,” he said, in an interview with the Estado de S. Paulo. Shannon explained that Russia’s annexation of Crimea fundamentally changed the relationship between Washington and Moscow, and criticized Brazil for its lack of a stance on the case. “Large countries with large ambitions need to assert themselves, for the benefit of all of us,” he stated. Shannon said the U.S. would like to “do more” in the relationship with Brazil, recently shaken by spying revelations from former NSA agent Edward Snowden and the cancellation of President Dilma Rousseff’s state visit to Washington in October.

Read full interview in Portuguese here.

Brazil: Internet “bill of rights” approved in key vote

BBC News, 3/27/2014

Known as the Marco Civil – or Bill of Rights – it would enshrine freedom of expression, the right to privacy and the principle of web neutrality. The measure must still be approved in the Brazilian Senate before it can be signed into law, the Latin Post news website reports.

Supporters of the bill are celebrating the development. “Oh my God, I’m so, so happy,” says Carolina Rossini, project director at New America Foundation, who has campaigned for Marco Civil for many years. “Last night I had a whole bottle of wine by myself,” she tells the Daily Dot website, which covers internet-related news.

The Marco Civil bill was first officially drafted in 2009, and went through a long process of approval and consultation with web users, telecom companies and government agencies, the Latin Post says.

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