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Brazil's Rousseff begins US visit

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Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff (pictured) was to meet on Sunday with investors in New York on the first day of a long-delayed US visit aimed at overcoming strains caused by the NSA spying scandal.

[NEW YORK] Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff was to meet on Sunday with investors in New York on the first day of a long-delayed US visit aimed at overcoming strains caused by the NSA spying scandal.

Revelations two years ago that the US National Security Agency electronically eavesdropped on Ms Rousseff's email and other communications prompted her to angrily call off an official visit to Washington that had been set for October 2013.

The White House has expressed hope that her meeting with President Barack Obama this week will turn the page on an acrimonious chapter in US relations with the South American giant.

The fence-mending trip comes as the Brazilian president faces growing difficulties at home stemming from a faltering economy and a huge corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras.

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Ms Rousseff, who arrived Saturday night, was to kick off her US visit by meeting Sunday in New York with a group of about 20 Brazilian business leaders.

She was to follow that up Monday with a meeting with US and Brazilian business people before speaking at the end of a seminar organised by her government on plans for a major infrastructure program with hundreds of contracts in the offing.

She has a working dinner with Mr Obama at the White House on Monday, followed by their main talks on Tuesday, before she heads to the US West Coast.

Ms Rousseff has proposed US$62 billion in spending on infrastructure to stimulate her country's lagging economy, even as she cuts back spending overall by US$23 billion to get its books in order.

After experiencing near-zero growth last year, Brazil's once sizzling economy is expect to contract 1.1 per cent this year.

Unemployment rose to 6.7 per cent in May, and inflation is expected to hit nine percent this year.

Though re-elected to a second term in October 2014, Ms Rousseff's approval rating has plunged to a record low of just 10 per cent, making the US trip an opportunity to recast her image at home.

"The domestic importance of this trip is much greater than its external importance," said Carlos Melo, a political scientist at the Insper business school in Sao Paulo.

"Certainly at this moment, it is much more important for Brazil than the United States."

AFP

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