In an unprecedented snub to President Obama, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has canceled her official state visit to the White House scheduled for next month, angered by revelations of U.S. spying on her and on major Brazilian state institutions.
The White House released a statement Tuesday saying that both presidents “agreed to postpone” Ms. Rousseff’s visit, scheduled for Oct. 23. But it is the Brazilian leader who is incensed about the National Security Agency’s surveillance of her and her top aides and a Brazilian energy company.
The two presidents spoke by phone for 20 minutes Monday night, but Mr. Obama’s explanations to Ms. Rousseff about the spying were not enough to prevent her from canceling the trip.
The Brazilian government said that “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,” Ms. Rousseff could not proceed with the trip.
The statement from Brasilia said the government hoped the visit would take place “as soon as possible,” once the issue had been “resolved properly.”
The Brazilian newspaper O Globo said Mr. Obama failed in an attempt to “salvage” the state visit. The White House portrayed it as a mutual decision.
“The president agreed with President Rousseff that it was important to celebrate our broad relationship and that that relationship should not be overshadowed by a single bilateral issue, no matter how important or challenging the issue may be,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “And for that reason, the two presidents agreed to postpone President Rousseff’s state visit.”
Mr. Carney has often noted that even the friendliest of states engage in espionage against one another, although he also has acknowledged that the U.S. has greater capacity to do so than Brazil does.
The allegations of surveillance against Brazilian citizens were aired on TV earlier this month by Rio de Janeiro-based journalist Glenn Greenwald, a reporter for Britain’s The Guardian newspaper, who has received classified documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Mr. Obama tried to smooth things over with Ms. Rousseff two weeks ago at the G-20 summit in Russia.
“The president has said that he understands and regrets the concerns 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,” the White House said in a statement. “Other important cooperation mechanisms, including the presidential dialogues on political, economic, energy, and defense cooperation, will continue.”
The White House said Mr. Obama’s invitation was “a reflection of the importance he places on this growing global partnership and the close bonds between the American and Brazilian people.”
“The United States and Brazil enjoy a strategic partnership rooted in shared democratic values and in the desire to advance broad-based economic growth and job creation,” the statement said.
Mr. Obama has directed a review of U.S. intelligence activities, but the White House said that process will take several months to complete.