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Brazil is snubbing Boeing in a jet deal after NSA spying soured relations

F-18 Super Hornet fighter airplanes sit on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier at Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro February 26, 2010. The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson arrived in Brazil on Friday, a few weeks after taking part in Operation Unified Response, the international humanitarian aid mission in Haiti. The ship stopped in Rio de Janeiro on its way to dock in San Diego, California.
Reuters/Ricardo Moraes
About as close to Rio as the F-18 Super Hornet is getting anytime soon.
brazilPublished Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Today Brazil’s government announced it won’t buy $4.5 billion worth of US fighter jets in a move attributed to anger over controversial US intelligence-gathering that targeted Brazilian citizens and officials, including president Dilma Rousseff.

The Brazilian government’s official statements pointed to performance and cost issues as the reason to pick Sweden’s Saab AB to develop 36 fighters, though many observers had believed Boeing had the upper hand while bidding to expand Brazil’s air force.

Calling the decision “disappointing” in a statement, Boeing says it isn’t done trying to sell to Brazil, a major client for the company’s commercial air business, noting that ”over the next several weeks, we will work with the Brazilian Air Force to better understand its decision.”

One way to understand it: “The NSA problem ruined it for the Americans,” a Brazilian government official told Reuters. Public opinion turned against the US, and Brazil is leading the charge for a United Nations resolution that would limit electronic surveillance. Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor whose leaks revealed the US surveillance, obliquely requested asylum in Brazil earlier this week, but it looks the country isn’t interested in hosting the whistleblower.

Today, a White House panel charged with assessing American electronic snooping released a report urging new limits on US intelligence agencies. One of its recommendations is to more carefully assess the costs of surveilling foreign leaders like Brazil’s Rousseff. On this front, Brazil’s decision on the fighter planes is a costly object lesson for the US government.

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