The NSA Scandal: Good for the Brazilians?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 5 2013 4:10 PM

The NSA Scandal: Good for the Brazilians?

The AFP reports that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has "halted preparations for a Washington visit Thursday amid an escalating row over alleged US spying on Latin American leaders." If you are saying "whuh-uh?" at this point, you might be too distracted by the will-we/won't-we Syria story to be following one of the latest Glenn Greenwald stories based on a Snowden leak—that the NSA was monitoring the president's communications. Cue the advisers, named and anonymous, accusing the White House of being disingenous and risking the cancellation of a state dinner and economic deal.

The official, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the episode, said Rousseff feels "patronized" by the U.S. response so far to the Globo report. She is prepared to cancel the visit as well as take punitive action, including ruling out the purchase of F-18 Super Hornet fighters from Chicago-based Boeing Co, the official said.
"She is completely furious," the official said.
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One fact to add here: Rousseff, at the moment, is fighting bad economic news and social unrest that has weakened her standing. A recent bounce—a bounce!—brought her approval back up to 38 percent. The presidential election is one year away, and Rousseff is polling in the 30s. She's still favored to make a second round if there's a runoff, but she's not thriving. This scandal, and the opportunity to attack an abuse of American power, comes at a good time, even though the U.S. isn't particularly unpopular in Brazil.

That explains the Brazil side of this. Why isn't it blowing up in the United States? Syria, and what has so far been a generalized yawn toward any NSA story involving spying on non-Americans.

David Weigel is a former Slate political reporter. 

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