By Maria Lopez Conde, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The new United States Ambassador to Brazil, Liliana Ayalde, arrived in Brasília on September 16th. Her appointment follows the departure of her predecessor Thomas Shannon and comes at tense time for Brazil-U.S. relations.
As she disembarked at Brasília’s airport, Ayalde told assembled reporters that she was looking forward to getting to know Brazil’s diversity and working to strengthen the ties between the two allies.
“It’s a true pleasure for me to arrive in Brazil to serve as United States ambassador in the country and to lead the important work of the embassy and our consulates,” Ayalde said.
“[My family and I] are excited about traveling around Brazil, to get to know the diversity and richness of your people, your culture and to be able to establish friendships with the Brazilians in all the places we visit,” she continued, in fluent Portuguese.
The ambassador did not mention the recent diplomatic row between Brazil and the United States over the NSA’s large-scale surveillance program that monitored both the communications of Brazilian citizens, top Brazilian politicians and the country’s largest company, Petrobras.
On September 24th, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff used her opening speech at the United Nations’ 68th General Assembly to lambast the U.S. espionage program just one week after canceling a state visit to the United States. The move was seen as a serious blow to U.S.-Brazil relations.
“This is a very important time in our relations, full of opportunities and possibilities,” the new ambassador said without making a direct reference to the allegations. “Together, I am certain that we can expand and deepen the many links that exist between our two important and great nations,” Ayalde affirmed.
Ayalde was appointed to her new role three months ago, and former Ambassador Shannon was the United States’ representative in Brazil for more than three years. Brazilian government officials summoned Shannon on a number of occasions to demand transparency and explanations over the U.S. NSA’s spying program.
He departed Brasília at the beginning of September and will now serve as an advisor to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s in Washington.
Ayalde has over thirty years of diplomatic experience and a long history serving American interests in Latin America through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Colombia and Bolivia. From 2008 until 2011, she served as the U.S. ambassador to Paraguay. The daughter of a Colombian doctor who lived in the U.S., Ayalde is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.
“Brazil has created the opportunity for us to re-imagine our relationship and construct a new kind of strategic partnership,” Ayalde said in a YouTube video uploaded to the sharing platform on September 20th.
“Through sports diplomacy programs, I hope to sponsor a culture of teamwork among youth, knowing they are the key to our future success,” she said, adding that, together, both nations “can boost and sustain economic growth, expand [their] trade and investment potential and address key global challenges.”
She also stressed the importance of educational exchange programs, which should be strengthened due to the effect people-to-people exchanges can have. Ayalde said she herself had benefited from such a connection because her Colombian father received a scholarship to study in the United States.
According to Folha de São Paulo, Ayalde will oversee an issue of great interest to both nations: the purchase of new U.S.-made Boeing fighter aircraft for the Brazilian Air Force. The recent diplomatic misstep between the two countries has cast doubt on Brazil’s willingness to purchase said aircraft from an American company.