When it comes to U.S. diplomacy, especially with South America, this is the sort of snub that matters a great deal.
Brazil’s president has postponed a planned state visit to the United States over allegations that the National Security Agency has spied on her government.
“The President has said that he understands and regrets the concerns disclosures of alleged U.S. intelligence activities have generated in Brazil,” said a statement from White House spokesman Jay Carney.
Brazil President Dilma Rousseff made her own announcement at a press conference on Tuesday.
Keep in mind, this wasn’t just some routine, periodic international gathering, where President Obama and President Rousseff would have met and exchanged pleasantries. We’re talking about a state visit in which the Brazilian leader would have been welcomed to the White House as a celebrated guest, as part of a larger diplomatic effort to strengthen the ties between the two largest economies in the Western hemisphere.
For Rousseff to cancel over NSA surveillance is about the clearest, loudest way possible for a foreign head of state to express dissatisfaction.
Revelations about international surveillance, affecting allied Latin American countries including Brazil, surfaced over the summer as part of the Edward Snowden leaks of NSA materials.
Obama reportedly spoke with Rousseff on the phone last night, but was unable to persuade the Brazilian leader to make the trip. That said, the White House will reportedly keep the lines of communication open and hopes to reschedule the state visit.