August 13, 2013
Brazilian officials have expressed reluctance to purchasing dozens of military planes from the US after it was revealed that the NSA not only closely monitored Brazilian energy and military affairs, but also mined for commercial secrets.
The US had planned to sell Brazil – a country in the process of revitalizing its Air Force – 36 fighter jets in a deal worth more than US$4 billion. But when US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Tuesday, the leaders will not discuss the deal, a source near to the situation told Reuters.
Kerry traveled to Colombia before making his way to Brazil in an attempt to repair relations with Latin American nations after NSA leaker Edward Snowden disclosed documents showing that the US spied on communications related to the military, political and terror issues, and energy policies.
“We cannot talk about the fighters now…You cannot give such a contract to a country that you do not trust,” the source said.
Chicago-based Boeing Co. is competing for the $4 billion contract against France’s Rafale and Sweden’s Gripen, although the longer Brazil goes without choosing, the more likely it is that other competitors will enter the fray.
Rousseff delayed a decision on the fighter jets because of budget woes and widespread demonstrations protesting austerity and government corruption.
“I don’t expect the president to decide on the fighter contract this year, and next year is an election year so it might have to wait until 2015,” a Brazilian government source said.
Brazil’s Foreign Minister, Antonio Patriota, informed United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon of the nation’s situation as recently as last week.
Tuesday’s visit will be Kerry’s first trip to Brazil as Secretary of State.
But it’s not just Brazil that was reportedly upset over the NSA revelations. Even Colombia – one of Washington’s closest allies in the region – was unhappy about the information revealed. In Bogota, Kerry aimed to play down the rift during a press conference.
“Frankly, we work on a huge number of issues and this was in fact a very small part of the overall conversation and one in which I’m confident I was able to explain precisely that this has received the support of all three branches of our government,” Kerry told reporters. “It has been completely conducted under our Constitution and the law…The president has taken great steps in the last few days…to reassure people of the US intentions here.”
US Vice President Joe Biden has visited Brazil and Colombia, and President Barack Obama recently made a three-day trip to Mexico and Puerto Rico. Both trips have been portrayed as evidence of US politicking below the equator.
During his visit to Brazil, Biden said that stronger trade ties should usher in a new era of relations between Washington and Brasília.
How long that goodwill will last remains to be seen, according Carl Meacham, former Latin America adviser on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“I think the tone of the visit will be a bit tense because of these issues raised by the surveillance [program] and I think Secretary Kerry will have to speak to that,” he told AP.