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Updated: September 4, 2013 00:23 IST

Dilma may cancel White House visit over NSA spying

Shobhan Saxena
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Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff
AP Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff

Brazilian President may discuss the issue with other BRICS leaders

Outraged by the revelations that U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) targeted her phone calls, e-mails and mobile phone texts, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is seriously considering the possibility of cancelling her official visit to Washington in October if President Barack Obama fails to give “convincing answers” about the activities of the American agency in Brazil.

Though officially the cancellation of the visit, which will include a state dinner at the White House, is “not on the table”, according to close aides of the Brazilian President, she is “very angry” and feeling “cheated” by the U.S. government.

“When the NSA story first came out in July, the U.S. government assured us that the agency was only looking at the metadata that would also help Brazil. Now it has been revealed that content from the phones and e-mails of the President and her close aides was picked. This is unacceptable to us,” said a Brazilian diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In a report by The Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald on Globo TV on Sunday night, it was revealed how the NSA targeted Ms. Rousseff and her advisers.

On Monday, after Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo summoned U.S. Ambassador Thomas Shannon to seek an explanation about the reported NSA spying, Ms. Rousseff went into a huddle with her top ministers in an emergency meeting at which they discussed their response to the activities of the U.S. agency in Brazil.

In the meeting on the eve of her departure to Russia for the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, where she will come face-to-face with Mr. Obama, Ms. Rousseff and her ministers discussed three options to protest against the U.S. government.

According to highly-placed sources in Brasilia, while a group of ministers wanted her to make a “strong speech” against the NSA at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly in September, others suggested the recalling of the Brazilian ambassador to Washington.

The third option of cancelling the trip in October was advocated by some ministers and discussed at the meeting, according to sources.

The Brazilian President, according to sources, also asked the Foreign Ministry to seek support from other members of the BRICS group (Russia, India, China and South Africa) to build a case against the NSA activities that “affects the sovereignty of countries”, “This issue will definitely figure in the President’s talks with the fellow BRICS leaders at St. Petersburg”, said the Brazilian diplomat.

Indignation

The latest revelations about NSA activities have caused indignation in Brasilia, with the top Presidential advisers feeling that if Ms. Rousseff travelled to U.S. without “convincing answers” from Mr. Obama, the “photo-ops” at the White House would give an impression that the Brazilians “do not mind being spied on by NSA”.

Now, Brasilia is waiting for a response from Washington before deciding the next course of action. “Our reaction depends on the type of response that is given to us. That’s why we want a formal response in writing to be assessed and then we’ll see what kind of action needs to be taken,” said Mr. Figueiredo on Monday, after he had asked the American ambassador to give “formal explanation in writing”.

With the NSA story making headlines in this country, there is a speculation that the President and her close aides were targeted by the NSA to get information about Brazilian oil fields whose auction is scheduled for the same week that the President is scheduled to go to Washington. Several American oil companies have shown interest in these fields worth $15 billion.

The NSA reports that came out in July and August had revealed that the U.S. had targeted Brazil and other South American nations for commercial intelligence, especially in the energy and defence sectors.

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