By Anthony Boadle and Alonso Soto, Reuters
BRASILIA – U.S. hopes of landing a coveted deal worth more than $4 billion to sell 36 fighter jets to Brazil have suffered a setback with recent revelations that the United States collected data on Brazilian Internet communications.
When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sits down with Brazilian officials in Brasilia on Tuesday to prepare a state visit to the White House by President Dilma Rousseff, the sale of the warplanes will not be on the agenda, a Brazilian source said.
“We cannot talk about the fighters now … . You cannot give such a contract to a country that you do not trust,” a high-level Brazilian government official told Reuters on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
The official said Kerry’s one-day visit to Brazil will focus on restoring the trust between Washington and Brasilia that was shaken by the spying disclosures, which set off a political uproar in the largest U.S. trade partner in South America.
Last month, Brazilian newspaper O Globo published documents leaked by fugitive former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that revealed U.S. surveillance of Internet communications in Brazil and other Latin American countries.
Angry Brazilian senators questioned Rousseff’s planned visit to Washington in October and opposed awarding the United States the multibillion-dollar deal to overhaul the Brazilian Air Force’s fleet of fighter jets.
Boeing Co is competing with its F/A-18 Super Hornet against France’s Rafale made by Dassault Aviation and Sweden’s Gripen made by Saab to win a contract worth at least $4 billion, with probable follow-up orders that would greatly increase the value of the contract over time.
That makes it a critical prize for defense companies at a moment when the United States and many European countries are tightening military budgets.
A senior U.S. official said Brazil’s final decision should be based on which is the superior aircraft.
“We think we have the best product,” he said of the F/A-18, adding that the United States has promised to transfer as much technology to Brazil as allowed under U.S. law regarding the fighter jet.