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Geopolitics

Rising Brazil-U.S. Tensions Over Spying Allegations From Snowden Leak

Will Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff call off a state visit to Washington?

Happier times between allies of the Americas
Happier times between allies of the Americas
Tai Nalon

BRASILIA — Brazil is simply not buying the explanations coming out of Washington after recent reports that documents leaked by Edward Snowden showed that the U.S spied on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Reuterscites an unnamed Brazilian government source as saying a Rousseff trip to Washington scheduled next month is at risk, along with certain trade partnerships, if the U.S. does not clarify or publicly apology for accusations that the National Security Agency (NSA) tracked emails, text messages and phone calls of Rousseff, as well as Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Brazilian Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo told Folha de S. Paulo that the justifications the U.S. gave to the Brazilian government about alleged espionage in the country "weren't true." According to the minister, Brazil is hoping to get "reasonable explanations," especially as regards alleged interceptions of Rousseff's conversations as cited by Globo TV that were circulated by former NSA contractor Snowden.

"Absolutely no reasonable explanations have been given by the U.S.. In fact, from the start all the explanations given to us have turned out to be false. After the embassy's justifications and, later, our team's visit to the U.S., further investigation showed they weren't plausible.

"We are still waiting," said Bernardo, who characterized the American behavior as "unjustifiable." Still, he added that it was up to the Brazilian president and her diplomatic team to decide whether or not to go to Washington for October's state visit.

Up to her

"I think demanding explanations from the American government is the appropriate action," Bernardo says. "I believe that diplomacy is needed to solve this problem. This is embarrassing us — as well as other countries, such as Mexico, Germany, France."

He thinks that there isn't the "slightest possibility" that the U.S. are spying on Brazil to monitor possible terrorist attacks. "That's industrial, commercial tracking to find out about pre-salt and other important commercial or economic matters. Thus, it's worse than it seems at a first glance."

Brazil's Vice President Michel Temer has also criticized the U.S. behavior as "unacceptable," but said that he believes that the matter will soon be "tactfully" settled.

As for whether Rousseff should postpone her trip to Washington, he stated, "The president can decide for herself. In my opinion, this will be taken care of diplomatically and in time for the president to visit the United States."

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Economy

Russian Diamonds Are Belgium's Best Friend — But For How Much Longer?

Belgium has lobbied hard for the past year to keep Russian diamonds off the list of sanctioned goods. Indeed, there would be a huge impact on the economy of the port city of Antwerp, if Europe finally joins with the U.S. and others in banning sale of so-called "blood diamonds" from Russia. But a 10th package of EU sanctions arriving this month may finally be the end of the road.

Photo of a technician examining the condition of a diamond in Antwerp, Belgium

A technician examining the condition of a diamond in Antwerp, Belgium

Wang Xiaojun / Xinhua via ZUMA Wire

Since Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, the European Union has agreed to nine different packages of sanctions against Russia. With the aim to punish Moscow's leadership and to cripple the war economy, European bans and limits have been placed on imports of a range of Russian products from coal, gas and steal to caviar and vodka — were successively banned over the past 11 months.

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Still, one notable Russian export is a shining exception to the rule, still imported into Europe as if nothing has changed: diamonds.

Russian state conglomerate Alrosa, which accounts for virtually all of the country's diamond production (95%) and deals with more than one-fourth of total global diamond imports, has been chugging along, business as usual.

But that may be about to change, ahead of an expected 10th package of sanctions slated to be finalized in the coming weeks. During recent negotiations, with 26 of the 27 EU members agreeing on the statement that ALSROA’s diamonds should no longer be imported, the one holdout was not surprisingly Belgium.

The Belgian opposition to the ban is explained by the port city of Antwerp, where 85% of the rough diamonds in the world pass through to get cut, polished, and marketed. There are estimates that 30,000 Belgians work for Alrosa.

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