BRASILIA (AFP) – Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has cancelled advance preparations for a U.S. visit, a spokeswoman said Thursday, amid a row with Washington over reports she was a target of U.S. electronic espionage.
A spokeswoman for Rousseff said a trip by a Brazilian delegation to prepare for the president’s October 23 visit to Washington “was cancelled.”
The spokeswoman did not say why the trip was cancelled, but it comes after Brazil demanded explanations from Washington for reports that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) spied on her communications.
Rousseff, who is in Saint Petersburg, Russia for a G20 meeting that includes President Barack Obama, “wants a retraction by the government of the United States,” the spokeswoman said.
Asked whether Rousseff would meet with Obama on the sidelines of the G20 meeting, the spokeswoman said “there is still nothing planned but she still has until tomorrow.”
U.S. National Security spokesman Ben Rhodes told reporters in St. Petersburg that the White House had not been informed of any delay to planning for Rousseff and Obama’s meeting.
“I’m not aware of that. I know that they are seeing each other. I think they’re sitting next to each other at the G20 sessions actually, so I’m sure they’ll have an opportunity to talk,” he said. “I addressed this earlier today, in terms of our commitment to work with them, to understand their concern around the NSA issue, that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
The October 23 visit would be Rousseff’s first to Washington, and the first of its kind by a foreign leader this year.
American journalist Glenn Greenwald, who obtained files on U.S. electronic surveillance programs from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, reported Sunday that the NSA was using a program to access all Internet content Rousseff visited online.
He told Globo television Sunday that the NSA was trying to better understand Rousseff’s methods of communication and interlocutors.
The NSA program allegedly allowed agents to access the entire communications network of the president and her staff, including telephone, Internet and social network exchanges, the Rio-based journalist said.
He said Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto was similarly targeted.
Both Brazil and Mexico summoned the U.S. ambassadors in their respective countries to demand an explanation.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Luis Figueiredo said the report, if proven, “represents and unacceptable and unallowable violation of Brazilian sovereignty.”
Pena Nieto, for his part, said he would raise the issue with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in Russia.