Why America Spies on Brazil
President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil canceled her visit to President Obama. She was offended because the United States was peeking into her electronic mail. You don't do that to a friendly country. The information, probably reliable, was provided by Edward Snowden from his refuge in Moscow.
Intrigued, I asked a former U.S. ambassador, "Why did they do it?" His explanation was starkly frank:
"From Washington's perspective, the Brazilian government is not exactly friendly. By definition and history, Brazil is a friendly country that sided with us during World War II and Korea, but its present government is not."
The ambassador and I are old friends. "May I identify you by name?" I asked. "No," he answered. "It would create a huge problem for me. But you may transcribe our conversation." I shall do so here.
"All you have to do is read the records of the São Paulo Forum and observe the conduct of the Brazilian government," he said. "The friends of Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, of Dilma Rousseff and the Workers Party are the enemies of the United States: Chavist Venezuela, first with (Hugo) Chávez and now with (Nicolás) Maduro; Raúl Castro's Cuba; Iran; Evo Morales' Bolivia; Libya at the time of Gadhafi; Bashar Assad's Syria.
"In almost all conflicts, the Brazilian government agrees with the political lines of Russia and China, as opposed to the perspective of the U.S. State Department and the White House. Its more akin ideological family is that of the BRICS, with whom it tries to conciliate its foreign policy. [The BRICS are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.]
"The huge South American nation neither has nor manifests the slightest desire to defend the democratic principles that are systematically violated in Cuba. On the contrary, former president Lula da Silva often takes investors to the island to fortify the Castros' dictatorship. The money invested by the Brazilians in the development of the super-port of Mariel, near Havana, is estimated to be $1 billion.
"Cuban influence in Brazil is covert but very intense. José Dirceu, Lula da Silva's former chief of staff and his most influential minister, had been an agent of the Cuban intelligence services. In exile in Cuba, he had his face surgically changed. He returned to Brazil with a new identity (Carlos Henrique Gouveia de Mello, a Jewish merchant) and functioned in that capacity until democracy was restored. Hand in hand with Lula, he placed Brazil among the major collaborators with the Cuban dictatorship. He fell into disgrace because he was corrupt but never retreated one inch from his ideological preferences and his complicity with Havana.
"Something similar is happening with Profesor Marco Aurelio Garcia, Dilma Rousseff's current foreign policy adviser. He is a contumacious anti-Yankee, worse than Dirceu even, because he's more intelligent and had better training. He will do everything he can to foil the United States.
"To Itamaraty - a foreign ministry renowned by the quality of its diplomats, generally multilingual and well educated - the Democratic Charter signed in Lima in 2001 is just a piece of paper without any importance. The government simply ignores the election swindles perpetrated in Venezuela or Nicaragua and is totally indifferent to any abuses against freedom of the press.
"But that's not all. There are two other issues about which the United States wants to be informed about everything that happens in Brazil, because, in one way or another, they affect the security of the United States: corruption and drugs.
"Brazil is a notoriously corrupt country and those ugly practices affect the laws of the United States in two ways: when Brazilians utilize the American financial system and when they compete unfairly with U.S. companies by resorting to bribery or illegal commissions.
"The issue of drugs is different. The production of Bolivian coca has multiplied fivefold since Evo Morales became president, and the outlet for that substance is Brazil. Almost all of it ends up in Europe, and our allies have asked us for information. That information sometimes is in the hands of Brazilian politicians."
My two final questions are inevitable. Will Washington support Brazil's bid for permanent membership in the U.N. Security Council?
"If you ask me, no," he says. "We already have two permanent adversaries: Russia and China. We don't need a third one."
Finally, will the United States continue to spy on Brazil?
"Of course," he tells me. "It's our responsibility to U.S. society."
I think that Doña Dilma should change her e-mail addresses frequently.