(Adds comment by a U.S. official on Biden-Rousseff discussion)
By Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA, June 17 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
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
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)