Both the Brazilian and U.S. governments billed President Dilma Rousseff’s late June meeting with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in Washington as a reset of relations between the Western Hemisphere’s two largest democracies. Revelations in 2013 by NSA contractor Edward Snowden of U.S. eavesdropping on Brazilian officials, including Rousseff herself, caused her to cancel her state visit scheduled for that October, putting bilateral relations on ice for almost two years.
Arguably, Brazil and the United States had already been on separate tracks for some time prior to that, given Brasilia’s more assertively independent foreign policy under the Workers Party, first elected in 2002 under former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and a laissez-faire U.S. attitude toward the region. But coupled with China’s growing profile in Latin America, which gave Brazil new options for alignment and allowed it to work around Washington, the Snowden revelations crystalized an atmosphere of mutual frustration and mistrust between Brazil and the U.S.
The June meeting was an acknowledgement that both governments saw a need to get relations back on a more sustainable and rewarding path. At the April Summit of the Americas in Panama, Obama offered Rousseff either a rescheduled state visit, occurring in 2016, or a more routine “official visit” on a shorter timeframe. Rousseff chose speed over protocol, a mark of how significantly circumstances have changed for her domestically since her re-election late last year.