September 18, 2013

Friends. . . No Mas Señor


Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is not happy with President Barack Obama, and she is not hiding it. There is enough drama with the allegations of the NSA spying on her, and eavesdropping on high stakes oil and gas activities in her country. So much for trust and love.
Brazil has worked tirelessly in recent years to transform itself into a formidable partner in global economics, not just a country with boatloads of potential, but saddled with more questions than any country knows what to do with. In the days of Hugo Chavez, one friend the United States could tout as being a strong partner in a region where friendships came with strings attached, was Brazil. And now that unconditional love is almost gone bye-bye.
President Dilma Rousseff recently cancelled her trip to Washington, and insiders are pointing to that as a direct gesture to the Obama administration in response to the US National Security fiasco. Thanks to Edward Snowden, the world knows who the NSA was spying on, and which conversations the government was busy listening to.
I know this will come as a surprise to many of my fellow Americans who swore the government was spying on them,- at least now we know the kind of clout one needs to have to earn a spot on a the NSA spy list. Trust me, the NSA have no interest in your Wal-Mart grocery list, your obsession with Scandal TV show, or you ridiculous Facebook dogfights.
I have to guess that most people do not usually like other people listening to their conversations, neither strangers nor friends. It’s just not a polite thing to do, of course unless there is another agenda flying under the radar. And that is what Brazil is particularly concerned about. Petrobras, the state-owned oil and gas entity that calls the shots in the region, has shifted to the center of this conversation, and there are questions about the real objective here.
President Dilma Rousseff didn’t earn the nickname "Iron Lady" for passing out candy at grocery stores. So it is a little unnerving that she is not smiling.
So who cares? Well, most US businesses chasing offshore Petrobras contracts care a great deal. I have a feeling that someone from Wall Street is already tweaking President Obama’s official apology to President Dilma Rousseff. She has demanded explanations and President Obama has some explanations to do.
Furthermore, every country is sitting back wondering if they made it to the spy list, and if so, what did the NSA find out about them. It is any surprise President Obama is having such a hard time getting even Latvia and Liechtenstein to support him against Syria? Such is the cost of betrayal, the ripple effects are often more than we can imagine. No wonder all of my man Barack’s hair has turned grey.
Of course Brazil is not cutting off ties with the US anytime soon, but don’t expect any friendly applause when the national soccer team shows up for the World Cup in Rio.
My point is, eventually President Dilma Rousseff will accept the NSA’s complex explanation for why it needed to know what Brazil was up to. Will they buy it? Of course, not. No matter how you slice it, this will be another headline for the political science commentators to blog about; the United States and Brazil will find some mutual interests and economic synergies, but you can bet there will be a high level of suspicion for every smile and every wink.
Friends, - no more.