Biden "confident" relations with Brazil can be repaired

BRASILIA Tue Jun 17, 2014 5:05pm EDT

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden waves at the end of a speech to students, young activists and officials at Cotroceni presidential palace in Bucharest May 21, 2014.  REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden waves at the end of a speech to students, young activists and officials at Cotroceni presidential palace in Bucharest May 21, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Bogdan Cristel

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BRASILIA (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he was confident relations with Brazil were on the road to recovery after he assured President Dilma Rousseff that Washington has changed the way it conducts electronic surveillance.

U.S.-Brazil relations have been largely on ice since documents leaked last year by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden showed that Washington had spied on Rousseff and other world leaders.

A day after watching the U.S. soccer team's victorious debut in the World Cup in the northeastern Brazilian city of Natal, Biden traveled to the capital, Brasilia, to meet Rousseff in hopes of turning the page on the espionage spat.

Biden said he and Rousseff had a "candid" talk about the episode and Internet surveillance, and that he was "confident" the hour-long discussion would help thaw relations between the hemisphere's two biggest economies.

"We discussed the common effort we have to protect and secure the Internet," Biden said later. "It is not a government tool of repression. It is owned by the people of the world."

Biden also handed Brazilian authorities a first batch of declassified U.S. documents that shed light on human rights abuses committed under Brazil's U.S.-backed 1964-85 military dictatorship, a gesture of particular interest to Rousseff, who was a political prisoner and a torture victim.

"I hope that in taking steps to come to grips with our past we can find a way to focus on the immense promise of the future," Biden said. "The sky is the limit to what we can achieve together."

Rousseff, who canceled a state visit to Washington last year in response to the espionage scandal, has indicated she is ready to move on. A thaw in relations could unlock faster progress on trade, offshore oil development and other long-elusive cooperative ventures between the two countries.

U.S. officials hope that face-to-face assurances from a leader for whom Rousseff has respect - she recently called Biden "seductive" - will be enough to turn the page. Their meeting lasted twice the scheduled time.

"He very much respects the concerns Rousseff has. He thought it was important to have a small, private, direct conversation that got into some detail on these issues," a U.S. official said. "That’s what he came here to do."

For security reasons, the official declined to go into specifics of what Biden told Rousseff.

Brazil's economy is Latin America's biggest, but also one of its most closed to trade, and U.S. companies have tried for years to persuade Brasilia to lower tariffs.

Brazil wants U.S. companies to drill for its offshore oil deposits and help with technology to gain access to potentially vast shale gas reserves.

The spat cost Boeing Co a $4 billion fighter jet contract with Brazil's air force. Boeing had been the front-runner but the contract went to Sweden in December.

(Additional reporting by Brian Winter in Sao Paulo; Editing by Peter Galloway and Grant McCool)

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Comments (4)
Bighammerman wrote:
When can we count on Biden being repaired? Or is he too far gone to repair?

Jun 17, 2014 10:20am EDT  --  Report as abuse
willich6 wrote:
When Biden says “I’m highly confidant”… you got to be thinking that relations with Brazil are headed south… Kerry has already destroyed our foreign relations with the rest of the world; so I guess this is Biden’s turn..

Jun 17, 2014 12:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Tangaroa wrote:
That’s the problem with Obama and Biden. They think they can do anything they want and everyone will forgive them and all will be back the way it was. They need to look up the word delusional and realize it’s not the rest of the world, it’s them….

Jun 17, 2014 12:30pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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