Monday, September 23, 2013

US Needs to Take the Hint from Dilma Rousseff's Snub

The Brazilian president's cancelled visit, over NSA spying, ought to jolt the US out of its arrogant disrespect for Latin America

Tuesday's cancellation of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's state visit to the White House, scheduled for next month, came as little surprise. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden, and reported by Glenn Greenwald and TV Globo, had caused an uproar in Brazil. According to the documents and reports, the US government had spied on Dilma's personal communications, and had targeted the computer systems of Brazil's Petrobras, the big oil company that is majority-owned by the state.

TV Globo's report indicated that there was information in the targeted Petrobas computer network that could be very valuable to foreign oil companies. Former President Lula da Silva said that Obama should "personally apologize to the world"; and Dilma also demanded a full public apology – which was not forthcoming.

The rift with Brazil comes at a time of worsening US relations with Latin America, and especially South America. It is indicative of a much deeper problem.

The Obama administration's refusal to recognize the results of the Venezuelan elections in April of this year, despite the lack of doubt about the results and in stark opposition to the rest of the region, displayed an aggressiveness that Washington hadn't shown since it aided the 2002 coup. It brought a sharp rebuke from South America, including Lula and Dilma.

Less than two months later, US Secretary of State John Kerry launched a new "detente", meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart Elías Jaua in the first such high-level meeting in memory, and implicitly recognizing the election results. But new hopes were quickly dashed when several European governments, clearly acting on behalf of the United States, forced down President Evo Morales' plane in July.

"They've definitely gone crazy," President Cristina Kirchner tweeted, and UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations) issued a strong denunciation. The gross violation of international law and diplomatic norms was another flamboyant display of Washington's lack of respect for the region.

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