Brazil may cancel a planned 4-billion-dollar purchase of US warplanes over recent revelations that American spy agency NSA also conducted electronic surveillance on Brazilian Internet communications.
When visiting US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with top Brazilian officials in the capital of Brasilia on Tuesday to set the stage for an October state visit to Washington by Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, “the sale of the warplanes will not be on the agenda,” Reuters reported Monday citing a senior Brazilian official.
“We cannot talk about the fighters now… You cannot give such a contract to a country that you do not trust,” said a “high-level Brazilian government official” on condition of anonymity, the report says.
The official further added that Kerry’s single-day visit to the country will focus on “restoring the trust between Washington and Brasilia that was shaken by the spying disclosures,” triggering a political fury in a country that remains the largest US trade partner in Latin America, according to the report.
The development comes following the publication in July of documents leaked by whistleblower and former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, exposing US surveillance of Internet communications in Latin American states, including Brazil.
The revelation of the American spying efforts led to angry opposition by Brazilian lawmakers to Rousseff’s scheduled visit to Washington as well as signing the multibillion-dollar military contract to purchase 36 American fighter jets in a bid to overhaul Brazilian Air Force’s fleet of warplanes.
Brazil, according to the report, has been debating the replacement of its ageing fighter jets for over a decade, but Rousseff seemed close to making a decision on the deal earlier this year, “with Boeing the clear favorite after the US Air Force bought 20 light attack planes from Brazilian plane maker Embraer for use in Afghanistan.”
US aircraft maker Boeing is competing with its F/A-18 Super Hornet jetfighters against France’s Rafale, made by Dassault Aviation, and Sweden’s Gripen, made by Saab, to win a contract worth at least USD4 billion.
The military purchase deal would be a “critical prize” for defense companies at a time when the US and many European nations are drastically reducing their military spending, the report adds.
This is while a senior US official is cited as saying in the report that Brazil’s decision on the military purchase “should be based on which is the superior aircraft.”
“We think we have the best product,” the official said of the F/A-18, adding that the United States has pledged to transfer as much technology to Brazil as allowed under American law regarding the fighter jet.
The report further emphasizes that the NSA spying scandal set off by whistleblower Snowden has soured relations between the two nations “just as they seemed to be on a upward spiral under Rousseff.”
Meanwhile, Rousseff’s US visit on October 23 “is the only one that President Barack Obama is offering a foreign head of state this year,” the report notes, adding that it reflects the significance his administration is placing on closer ties with Brazil.
Last month, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey admitted that Snowden’s revelations have seriously damaged American relations with other countries. “There has been damage. I don’t think we actually have been able to determine the depth of that damage.”
Moreover, Brazil’s Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota insisted that he will raise the US spying operations when he meets his American counterpart this week, saying, “It is an issue that cannot be left out of the bilateral US-Brazil agenda.”
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