News Column

Brazil Cancels State Visit Over U.S. Spying

September 17, 2013

Jonathan Watts, Rio de Janeiro

president obama
President Obama made a last-minute call to Dilma Rousseff, to no avail (file photo).

The Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, snubbed Barack Obama yesterday by postponing an official visit to Washington in protest at the spying activities of the US National Security Agency.

Despite a last-minute call from Obama on Monday night, Rousseff's office released a statement saying the political environment was not amenable for the planned trip on 23 October.

"Given the proximity of the scheduled state visit to Washington and in the absence of a timely investigation . . . there aren't conditions for this trip to be made," the statement read.

"The Brazilian government is confident that when the question is settled in an adequate manner, the state visit can quickly occur."

A statement from the White House said: "The president has said that he understands and regrets the concerns disclosures of alleged US intelligence activities have generated in Brazil and made clear that he is committed to working together with President Rousseff and her government in diplomatic channels to move beyond this issue as a source of tension in our bilateral relationship."

The postponement followed reports that the NSA has monitored Rousseff's telephone and emails, spied on communications by her aides, and targeted Brazil's biggest company, Petrobras.

Rousseff had earlier requested an explanation from the US president, but his reassurances failed to satisfy her concerns about the NSA's espionage activities on a peaceful and friendly nation.

The announcement is at least a temporary setback to bilateral relations, which appeared to have been improving since Rousseff came to power. The Brazilian president was the only foreign leader this year to be invited to a state dinner at the White House and business executives planned to use the visit to sign deals on oil exploration and fighter jet sales.

But a cascade of revelations about US spying activities in Brazil has enraged public opinion and damaged trust between the two governments.

In response to the tide of anger, US officials have adopted a softer tone. US national security adviser Susan Rice said the reports raised "legitimate questions for our friends and allies". But the White House has stopped short of the explanations and apologies requested by Brazil and other targets of NSA spying.

(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

Original headline: Brazil calls off state visit to US over spying

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Source: (c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.