In a strong message, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Tuesday called off her trip to Washington to protest the electronic surveillance conducted against her and her government by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).
The decision is a big blow to Brazil-U.S relations which had improved significantly since Ms. Rousseff’s inauguration in 2011.
On Monday, Mr. Obama had spoken to Ms. Rousseff over telephone for 20 minutes in a last-ditch attempt to save the trip — the only state visit to the White House this year — but the Brazilian leader turned down the invitation.
Though technically the trip has only been “delayed” and it was a joint decision made by the two Presidents, practically, the visit has been cancelled as no new date has been fixed for Ms. Rousseff’s travel to the U.S. She decided to call off the trip, scheduled for October 23, after a meeting with her Foreign Minister, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo who last week had visited Washington to discuss the allegations of espionage with U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Brazilian government said “given the proximity of the scheduled state visit to Washington — and in the absence of a timely investigation of the incident, with corresponding explanations and the commitment to cease the interception activities” it could not go ahead as planned. The statement said Brazil hoped the visit would take place “as soon as possible”, once the issue had been “resolved properly”.
Washington too tried to downplay the level of mistrust.
In a statement on Tuesday, the White House said: “The President has said that he understands and regrets the concerns [that] disclosures of alleged U.S. 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.”