Brazil asks for apology from US on spying

Updated: 2013-09-06 04:10


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Furious about a report that the US government spied on her private communications, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff may cancel a planned White House visit and downgrade commercial ties unless she receives a public apology, a senior Brazilian official said on Wednesday.

A Brazilian news program reported on Sunday that the US National Security Agency spied on e-mails, phone calls and text messages of Rousseff and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. The report by Globo TV was based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Rousseff is due to make a formal state visit to Washington next month to meet US President Barack Obama and discuss a possible $4 billion fighter-jet deal, cooperation on oil and biofuels technology, as well as other commercial agreements.

The visit, which is the only such invitation extended by Obama this year, was meant to highlight a recent improvement in relations between the two biggest economies in the Americas, as well as Brazil's emergence over the past decade as a vibrant economy and regional power.

But the official, who declined to be identified, said Rousseff feels "patronized" by the US response so far to the Globo report. She is prepared to cancel the visit as well as take punitive action, including ruling out the purchase of F-18 Super Hornet fighters from Chicago-based Boeing Co, the official said.

"She is completely furious," the official said.

"This is a major, major crisis. ... There needs to be an apology. It needs to be public. Without that, it's basically impossible for her to go to Washington in October," the official said.

Obama and Rousseff are scheduled to attend a G20 meeting in St Petersburg, Russia this week. However, as of Wednesday afternoon, the two leaders had no meeting scheduled, the official said.

Rousseff is a moderate leftist but comes from a party with roots in trade unions and a historic mistrust of the US. Local analysts have said it would be politically difficult for her to participate in the pomp of a state visit, which includes a black-tie dinner at the White House, so soon after the allegations.

On Monday, Rousseff's foreign minister demanded a written response to the Globo report from the US government by the end of this week. A Foreign Ministry official said there had been no response by Wednesday afternoon.

Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo, one of Rousseff's most trusted aides, told reporters late on Tuesday that the spying was "more serious than it seemed upon first impressions", which may help explain why Brazil is now seeking an apology in addition to the written explanation.