December 8, 2013
Rousseff warns Obama over US visit
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said yesterday that she will decide on whether to cancel a trip to the US over alleged spying on her based upon President Barack Obama’s full response.
Rousseff and Obama met in Russia yesterday on the sidelines of an international economic summit at the Group of 20 (G20) summit in St Petersberg. The first-term leader said on the Brazilian presidency’s official Twitter account afterwards that “my trip to Washington depends upon the political conditions to be created” by Obama.
She added that the US president has promised to explain the spying to her by Wednesday, and that she would soon propose before the United Nations new international regulations for privacy protection, though she gave no details on what those might be.
Rousseff spoke firmly to reporters at the end of the summit yesterday.
“I think is very serious to spy on a democratic country, very serious. I don’t see how someone can defend spying on a democratic country, or spying on the privacy of people,” she said.
“I made him (Obama) see that the relationship that we had, based on the fact that we are big democracies in this part of the world, is incompatible with the act of spying.”
“President Obama told me — and repeated — that he wants to create political conditions for my trip to the United States,” she said. “I want to know everything that they have. Everything.”
Rousseff is scheduled to visit Washington in late October and will be extended the honour having a state dinner, the only such dinner for a foreign leader scheduled this year.
But a report, aired on Globo TV last weekend, revealed that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) massive spy programme directly targeted Rousseff’s communications with top aides. The report was based on NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden to US journalist Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro and worked with the network on the story.
The report said the US agency mapped out the aides with whom Rousseff communicated and tracked patterns of how those aides communicated with one another and with third parties, according to a June 2012 NSA document. Greenwald said the document, while not containing excerpts of Rousseff communications, made it clear that US officials were reading her emails and text messages.
Rousseff has already cancelled a trip to Washington by an advance team of aides, in response to the allegations, placing a layer of uncertainty on her visit in October.
The White House confirmed yesterday that Obama individually discussed the NSA’s surveillance programmes with Rousseff and also with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who according to the Globo report was also a direct target of the NSA programme. Peña Nieto said on Wednesday that the allegations, if true, would constitute an illegal act.
Obama said yesterday he had assured both leaders he takes the allegations very seriously and had promised to address their concerns.
“I assured them that I take these allegations very seriously. I understand their concerns. I understand the concerns of the Mexican and Brazilian people; and that we will work with their teams to resolve what is a source of tension,” Obama said.
Obama added the tensions over the NSA spying disclosures should not override the wide-ranging relationship the United States has with Brazil, which he called “an incredibly important country” and an “amazing success story.”
Obama acknowledged that the US government needed to “step back and review what it is that we’re doing” and do a cost-benefit analysis of how useful the information was given legitimate concerns around privacy and civil liberties.
“It’s important for us, on the front end, to say, all right, are we actually going to get useful information here. And if not, if it’s not that important, should we be more constrained in how we use certain technical capabilities,” he said.
BRAZIL BRACES FOR PROTESTS
Brazilian officials were bracing themselves yesterday for an expected wave of anti-government protests, which have been organized to coincide with the country’s independence day.
Protests have been called in more than 100 cities, with demonstrations being organized by a wide range of groups, from unions to anarchists to student movements. Among the expected hotspots is the national soccer team’s match against Australia at the Estádio Nacional de Brasília.
Nationwide protests erupted in Brazil in June after a brutal police crackdown on a group demonstrating against subway and bus fare hikes in São Paulo.
Protesters are demanding an end to corruption in Brazilian politics and quick improvements to woeful public services in exchange for the high taxes they pay.
Herald with AP, Reuters