Today, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff announced that she would not be coming to the United States for a state visit in October, because of an unsatisfactory response by the U.S. government about the NSA spying allegations. Instead, she postponed the visit until a date that has yet to be decided.
Here are some of my observations on the whole thing:
- In a very Brazilian move, Dilma did not in fact cancel the visit, in spite of a lot of reporting to the contrary. She didn't say no. Brazilians, but especially Brazilians in diplomacy, aren't big on saying no.
- Because a lot of the news coverage cast the announcement as a cancellation, Dilma was able to frame the issue domestically in a way that will ultimately help her in the short term. It also helped her make an international splash on a sensitive issue.
- With just over a year until next year's presidential election but just months after Brazil's major protests, Dilma needs to continue building her political capital and to recover her approval ratings. It's not just stories about joy rides and more facetime with constituents that's going to help. Putting her foot down on this issue will win her some points.
- Dilma took a stand that's going to win her big points with constituents, her PT base that isn't crazy about the U.S., and Latin American neighbors who are also unhappy about the NSA allegations.
- If Dilma wins reelection next October, which she has a good shot at, she can go to Washington after she wins. The NSA scandal will have likely died down by then, and she won't have to worry about angering voters.
- Obama, who called Dilma last night, is highly unlikely to make a public apology about spying, as Dilma's administration has demanded. Any mending of fences is going to happen behind closed doors, and some mending is going to have to happen before she reschedules her visit.
- The postponement isn't great for raising Dilma's diplomatic profile (she's no Lula), but she's got bigger fish to fry at home and a reelection campaign to begin. She is coming to the United States next week, in fact, to speak at the UN, where she plans to discuss the NSA's activities.
- Once the visit does eventually happen, probably after next October, maybe the two leaders can actually make some real progress on issues like visas and trade.
Image: Blog do Planalto.