US VP Biden meets Brazil leader Rousseff

MANUEL MARTINEZ
Associated Press

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden briefly met with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Tuesday in a bid to thaw stalled relations between the two nations

Biden, speaking to reporters in the U.S. Embassy after the abrupt cancellation of a joint statement he was expected to make with Brazil’s vice president, said he reassured Rouseff that the U.S. had changed espionage tactics that previously led to direct spying of the Brazilian leader’s communications.

“I told her what she already knew — that President Obama ordered an immediate review after we learned of the disclosures,” Biden said. “We are taking a new approach on these issues.”

Rousseff was so enraged by reports last year based on leaked NSA documents that her personal communication was hacked that she cancelled what had been the first planned state visit by a Brazilian president to the U.S. in over two decades. Other reports indicated that the NSA hacked the computer network of state-run oil company Petrobras.

Since then, Rousseff has demanded the U.S. publicly apologize over the spying. No apology has been issued.

Biden said he and Rousseff “had a long private conversation … about the prospects of how to bring our nations even closer.” He highlighted the strong economic ties between the two nations — the U.S. is Brazil’s No. 2 trading partner, behind China — and the fact both were “strong, diverse democracies.”

On Monday night, Biden was in northeastern Brazil to watch the U.S. national soccer team beat Ghana 2-1 in its first World Cup match.

Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue, said Biden’s visit had the modest aim “to avoid further deterioration in U.S.-Brazil relations and to prepare the ground for an eventual improvement.”

“This is not the right moment to take significant steps in deepening the relationship — never mind forging a ‘strategic partnership,’ ” he said.

Shifter added that with Rousseff facing an October re-election that’s growing more competitive, she’s unlikely to make any big shifts in Brazil’s relationship with the U.S. before then.

“For the moment, Biden is merely trying to give a more positive tenor to the relationship, and to lay the groundwork for more substantive progress down the road,” he said.

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Associated Press writer Bradley Brooks contributed to this report from Rio de Janeiro.

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