Washington, DC - There will be no pomp and circumstance on the South Lawn, no locally grown black-tie feast on October 23rd at the White House: President Barack Obama will not be hosting a long-planned State Visit and State Dinner for Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff. It would have been the first of his second term in office. (Above, the two Presidents at the recent Russia G20)
Press Secretary Jay Carney and a spokesman for Rousseff both announced the postponement on Tuesday. Carney said it is by "mutual" agreement between the two leaders, due to Rousseff's ongoing "concerns" about "alleged US intelligence activities" that might "overshadow" the lavish affair.
Rouseff has been outraged since early September when Brazilian news program Globo TV reported that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on her emails, phone calls and text messages, as well as those of the President of Mexico. The report was based on documents leaked by fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
President Obama and Rousseff discussed the allegations during a one-on-one meeting at the recent G20 summit in Russia, and that conversation continued when they spoke by phone on Monday and agreed to postpone her visit, said Carney.
"Yesterday, the President spoke by telephone with President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil to follow-up on their meeting in St. Petersburg and Ambassador Rice’s meeting with the Foreign Minister of Brazil last week," Carney said.
"The President has said that he understands and regrets the concerns disclosures of alleged U.S. intelligence activities have generated in Brazil and made clear that he is committed to working together with President Rousseff and her government in diplomatic channels to move beyond this issue as a source of tension in our bilateral relationship."
"President Obama and President Rousseff both look forward to the State Visit, which will celebrate our broad relationship and should not be overshadowed by a single bilateral issue, no matter how important or challenging the issue may be," Carney said.
"For this reason, the presidents have agreed to postpone President Rousseff’s State Visit to Washington scheduled for October 23."
Rouseff's spokesman framed the postponement slightly differently.
"Practices of illegal interception of communications and data from citizens, businesses and members of the Brazilian government are indeed a serious a threat to national sovereignty and individual rights, and incompatible with democratic coexistence between friendly countries," said the Secretaria de Comunicação Social in a statement issued today.
"The proximity of the scheduled state visit to Washington--and in the absence of timely investigation of the incident, with corresponding explanations and a commitment to cease the activities and interception--are not the conditions to hold the visit on the date previously agreed."
"Thus, the two presidents decided to postpone the state visit, because the results of this visit should not be conditional on a topic whose satisfactory solution to Brazil has not yet been reached," said the Secretaria de Comunicação Social.
Carney noted that President Obama has already taken steps to allay Rousseff's concerns.
"As the President previously stated, he has directed a broad review of U.S. intelligence posture, but the process will take several months to complete," Carney said.
On the sidelines of the G20, Rousseff told reporters that President Obama promised her he would take personal responsibility for the reports of spying, but added that she was still not sure if she would visit the White House in October. She last visited President Obama at the White House in April of 2012.
Announced last May when Vice President Joe Biden was paying a visit to Brazil, Rouseff's visit was meant to enshrine a recent improvement in relations between the two nations, the two biggest economies in the Americas. The economic boons from the two days of social diplomacy in Washington included a possible $4 billion jet-fighter deal, cooperation on oil and biofuels technology, and other commercial agreements.
"President Obama’s invitation to President Rousseff for the first State Visit of his second term is a reflection of the importance he places on this growing global partnership and the close bonds between the American and Brazilian people," Carney said as he announced the postponement.
President Rouseff's State Visit and State Dinner were the only ones President Obama was scheduled to host in 2013.
In his first term, President Obama hosted six State Dinners. In March of 2012, he welcomed British Prime Minister David Cameron to the White House. In 2011, President Obama welcomed three leaders: Then-President Hu Jintao of China in January; Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in June; and then-President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea in October.
The first leader honored by President Obama was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India in November of 2009, followed by then-President Felipe Calderón of Mexico in May of 2010.
*Photo courtesy of the G20