Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said on Friday that U.S. President Barack Obama has promised to take direct and personal responsibility for investigating the revelations that her personal phone, emails and text messages were targeted by the National Security Agency (NSA). Angered by reports of spying, Ms she had threatened to cancel her planned state visit to U.S. in October.
But in an unscheduled meeting on the sidelines of G-20 Summit at St. Petersburg on Friday, the U.S. President tried to placate the Brazilian leader. “President Obama said to me that he would assume direct and personal responsibility for full clarification of the facts and take steps to remedy the problem”, Ms. Rousseff told reporters in the Russian city before leaving for Brazil.
Ms. Rousseff also said that Mr. Obama promised to give an answer to the Brazilian government until Wednesday. “I will wait for his answer before making a decision on my travel to U.S. I haven’t made the final decision yet,” she said, when asked if she would go ahead with her Washington trip.
Refusing to confirm the trip, Ms. Rousseff said it depended on “political conditions” that need to be restored by the U.S. government. “President Mr. Obama reiterated that he wanted to create political conditions for my trip to America,” she said.
According to some Brazilian officials present in St. Petersburg, Ms. Rousseff, who has been “furious” with the reports of U.S. spying, demanded a full explanation from Mr. Obama. Speaking to reporters after her meeting with Mr. Obama, Ms. Rousseff minced no words in saying that the incident was “unacceptable”.
She said the U.S. had no justification for spying on Brazil for alleged national security issues since the country “does not harbour terrorist groups” and it prohibits nuclear weapons in the Constitution. This leads to the conclusion, she added, that the spying activities were linked to “geopolitical factors, strategic factors or economic and commercial factors”.
On Thursday, Brazil had hardened its stance by cancelling the visit a team responsible for preparing the state visit to Washington.
The tense relations between the two countries, sparked by NSA disclosures since July, became worse last Sunday when it was revealed by Globo TV that the NSA had spied on e-mails, phone calls and text messages of Ms. Rousseff.
Earlier revelations about the U.S. interception of electronic data and telephony in Brazil led the Brazilian Justice Minister to travel to the U.S. for more information. But as the U.S. refused to give in to Brazilian demands, tensions between the two countries became more intense.
“Given my scepticism due to lack of results of the meeting between Justice Minister and Vice President [Joe] Biden, President Obama reiterated to me that he assumed direct responsibility both for the investigation of complaints and to offer measures that the Brazilian government considers appropriate,” Ms. Rousseff said on Friday.
The imbroglio over U.S. spying on Brazil has some in Brasilia toying with the idea of sending a strong message to the U.S. President. A government source close to the Brazilian President had told a news agency on Wednesday that she feels “patronised” by Washington. Other than threatening to cancel the Washington visit, the source said that Brazil might even take punitive action, including scrapping a purchase of F-18 Super Hornet fighter jets from U.S.