Trouble in Paradise for the U.S. and Brazil

ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images

Dear Fusion political relationship advice column,

This guy I’ve been seeing over the last two years — I’ll call him “Barry” — hacked my inbox to find out all kinds of information on me and use it for economic gain. We were supposed to have dinner, but after discovering on this gossip site I’ll call “Wikileaks”, I just had to cancel, even though he’s a really busy guy.

At the dinner, we were supposed to discuss some of our differences and come up with compromises in hopes of strengthening our relationship. Some of my friends say I can use this whole mess as leverage in the dinner talk. Barry even called and pleaded with me to keep our date. He also had a friend ask one of my friends to persuade me!

Others say if I can get Barry to give me something as a peace offering before I agree to dinner, then maybe I should forgive him and continue working on our relationship. After all, I also gain economically by being with him — he’s sort of a bigshot. And I enjoy so much of what he has to offer.

What should I do?

Sincerely,
President Dilma

So let’s explore this.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff recently announced she will not attend a White House dinner scheduled for October 23rd – the only foreign visit this year to the United States – due to revelations that the National Security Agency spent some time snooping on South America’s largest country. Even after a 20-minute phone call last Monday on which Barack Obama attempted to persuade Rousseff to maintain the scheduled visit, she still said no, according toO Globo.

Either Rousseff is one tough woman, or Obama is no longer the charmer-of-state he once was. I mean, this wasn’t his first time being snubbed.

Rousseff announced in an official public statement that she would call off her entire U.S. visit if Barry, I mean President Obama, failed provide the Brazilian government with an “adequate” explanation for its spying activities on Brazilian citizens, politicians, private companies like PetroBras, governmental business deals, and Rousseff herself.

How about if Obama offers a large bouquet of red roses with a nice note, one that answers her administration’s complaint this week about the NSA affair:

“The illegal practice of intercepting data and communications … is a grave infraction of our national sovereignty and human rights, and is incompatible with an amicable relationship between two democratic countries.”

Basically, Brazil is all like, “You spied on us, violated international law, and now expect us to still be friends?” Ouch.

Yes, it has been argued that the U.S. did this for national security reasons, but according to William C. Smith, an International Studies professor at the University of Miami, “Brazil has never been suspected of harboring terrorists. So for the N.S.A. to to say it’s about terrorism smells foul. It’s about economic espionage.”

PetroBras, Brazil’s semi-public multinational energy corporation is the largest company in the country – period – and one of the 30 biggest in the world. Fantastico, a Sunday news magazine show on Brazil’s major TV network Globo, used the documents leaked by N.S.A. contractor Edward Snowden to speculate that the U.S. may be interested in acquiring deep-sea drilling technology.

But Rousseff can’t stay heartbroken for too long. After all, “each country is an indispensable partner to each other,” Smith says.

Brazil has been called an “emerging” market power by many economists for the last decade or so, and it struggles with the notion of “always being the country of the future” but never actually getting there. Brazil could use a hand from an ally – one that will promise not to mess with its standing in Latin America.

In turn, helping Brasilia develop economically could help the U.S. help itself to maintain a certain level of power in the western hemisphere, balancing a world in which China and India could potentially tip the scale – as well as to expand a market for U.S. goods and services.

From what I can tell, Brazilians love shopping in the U.S.

So maybe now it’s time to respond.

Dear Di,

Why not give Barry a second chance to win your heart? I know he broke your trust. But instead of rubbing it in his face, use the leverage you now have to negotiate some of those sweetheart deals you’ve always wanted to make.

For example, talk to him about reforming the visa process for Brazilians to travel to the U.S. Or ask him to back you up as a member of the UN security council.

You two have enough goals and interests in common to remain friends. I’m sure you can work it out.

Sincerely,
Fusion