White House agrees to postpone visit by Brazilian president over spying allegations

September 17, 2013

The White House agreed Tuesday to postpone a state visit from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff set for Oct. 23, over concerns raised by the foreign leader over U.S. surveillance activities of her personal communications.

Rousseff reportedly told President Obama that she would cancel her trip to Washington in a phone call Monday night, the Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported. White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed Tuesday that the decision to postpone was finalized during the phone conversation.

Asked if Rousseff's decision would set back bilateral relations between the United States and Brazil, Carney said that the two leaders agreed to cancel the meeting because they did not want it to be "overshadowed by one bilateral issue, as challenging as it may be."

Carney added that Obama and Rousseff "look forward" to a rescheduled visit to "celebrate our broad relationship," but he did not indicate when that might take place.

Meeting with Obama during the G-20 economic summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, two weeks ago, Rousseff expressed outrage over revelations in the Brazilian press that the National Security Agency had spied on her personal communications with her top aides, stories based on information leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

National Security Adviser Susan Rice later followed up with Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, saying the United States understood the concerns and pledging to address them.

Obama also fielded similar concerns at the G-20 from Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. During a news conference at the summit, Obama said he assured the two foreign leaders that "I take these allegations very seriously.  I understand their concerns; I understand the concerns of the Mexican and Brazilian people, and that we will work with their teams to resolve what is a source of tension."

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.
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