Own Goal

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September 19, 2013

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Following the Brazilian government's decision to postpone a state visit to the White House on October 23, AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini argues in an editorial for Foreign Policy that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's decision might play well at home, but it represents a missed opportunity for Brazil to boost economic cooperation with the U.S. and expand its role in multilateral organizations.

Own Goal

By: Christopher Sabatini

Dilma Rousseff just snubbed the president of the United States. Scheduled to meet with Barack Obama and attend a state dinner at the White House in late October, the Brazilian president announced on Tuesday that she's postponing the visit over revelations that the National Security Agency has been spying on her government, as well as Brazil's largest oil company, Petrobras. It's a move that will surely play well at home, but ultimately it hurts Brazil more than it hurts the United States. Rousseff might not be coming to Washington, but few in the U.S. capital will even notice.

To be sure, the NSA allegations -- which singled out U.S. snooping on governments and corporations in Germany, the European Union, Mexico, and Brazil -- are deeply troubling. More than just a frightening overreach by a rogue agency and program, the charges (and rather cavalier response by U.S. officials) demonstrate a remarkable disregard for national sovereignty on the part of the United States. They also smack of hypocrisy coming from the self-proclaimed global protector of individual rights and freedoms. What they don't do is merit the cancellation -- or indefinite postponement -- of a planned state visit that could have advanced Brazilian interests and deepened ties between the hemisphere's two largest economies.

The decision to forgo the long-anticipated visit -- Brazil's last was in 1995 -- was clearly intended to send a loud public rebuke to the United States and rally Rousseff's leftist domestic political base ahead of next year's presidential election (Rousseff and her center-left party, Partido dos Trabalhadores, have seen their public approval ratings battered by a series of corruption scandals and the mass social protests that swept the country in June and July.) Accordingly, her diplomatic affront to the colossus to the north has been splashed all over Brazilian and Latin American media. But elsewhere, few paid much attention. In Wednesday's New York Times, for example, the cancellation only warranted a short, one-page article on A4. In fact, it didn't even make the small news summary at the bottom of the front page, which gave the spot to a story of how China's influence is ebbing in Africa.

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