Latin America
3:27 am
Wed September 18, 2013

Brazil's President Postpones U.S. Visit Over Spying Concerns

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A secret surveillance court has issued a very rare public defense of the U.S. program that collects massive data on phone calls. The court wrote that this program which stores numbers and call times but not content, we're told, does not violate privacy rights.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The American Civil Liberties Union countered that it is folly to trust privacy decisions to a secret court.

INSKEEP: The program was made public in leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Investigators are unraveling just how Snowden got those NSA documents and we'll hear about that in a few minutes.

MONTAGNE: First, we look at another instance in which Snowden's revelations have impacted U.S. relations with the world. Yesterday, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff postponed an October visit to the U.S. in response to the NSA spying on her and her country. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports from Rio de Janeiro.

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: The Snowden revelations have had global impact, but nowhere has the fallout been as dramatic as Brazil. Over the past few months, committees have been formed in Congress to investigate the various claims that the NSA has spied on ordinary Brazilians, Dilma Rousseff herself, and the state oil company, Petrobras.

Even her predecessor, Inacio Lula da Silva, was reportedly urging the president to cancel her visit to Washington, and yesterday she did. The White House was left stumbling explain what had happened. Here's spokesman Jay Carney.

JAY CARNEY: Yeah, this is an important relationship. We understand the president understands the concerns raised by these disclosures and we're working with the Brazilians on this matter, and we'll continue to do that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This was supposed to the first state visit by a Brazilian leader in two decades. The U.S. has been trying to woo the South American giant and increase economic ties. And while there's no doubt that Brazil is furious over infringements on its sovereignty, many analysts pointed to domestic politics as one of the main motivators of President Rousseff's cancellation.

After massive protests this summer, the president's popularity has taken a hit. As one editorial put it in the biggest daily here, Folha de Sao Paulo, never was there an easier decision for President Dilma Rousseff. No Latin American leader has ever lost political points for facing down the Yankees. And that seemed to be the case on the streets of Rio. In a busy square where a street band was playing, Viviani Arellas says she thinks Dilma did the right thing.

VIVIANI ARELLAS: (Through interpreter) I think it's the minimum she could've done. I think we need an accounting about the spying. We can't accept what they've done. Brazil has already followed too much from the U.S. as it is.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: One of the main figures in all of this is journalist Glenn Greenwald. He lives in Brazil, speaks fluent Portuguese, and authored the string of revelations about the NSA spying here in the local press. In an interview with NPR, Greenwald says he doesn't think it's surprising that Dilma decided not to go to the White House.

GLENN GREENWALD: So I expected that it would be a global story and then I knew once we started really investigating and seeing just how personal the spying was on the most important political figure in the country, as well as the country's most important corporation that's publically owned that supports a lot of social programs and the like, I had a good idea that it was going to resonate.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He says Brazil has been incredibly supportive of his work. The Congress took the initiative to give him round-the-clock protection at this home. They've also called on him to testify on what he's uncovered in the files Snowden gave him. For many in Brazil, he's become a hero. Greenwald says there are more revelations to come. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Rio de Janeiro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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