WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and Brazil's Dilma Rousseff paid a surprise joint visit Monday to Washington's Martin Luther King Memorial, part of efforts to mend fences after a spying row.
Obama hosted the Brazilian president at the memorial to the civil rights icon – one of his personal heroes – after a "turbulent patch" between the two countries caused by revelations that US spies had listened in on Rousseff's phone calls.
The White House said the visit "underscores the many shared values and strong bonds that exist between the American and Brazilian peoples."
Both countries have large minorities descended from West African slaves and continue to have problems resulting from racial inequality.
Later, Obama welcomed Rousseff at a small dinner at the White House with about 20 guests. She was joined by Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira and Defense Minister Jacques Wagner.
The US president was accompanied by Vice President Joe Biden and National Security Adviser Susan Rice.
Obama has often taken allies on symbolic trips in and around Washington.
He also took India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the MLK memorial and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the Lincoln memorial.
Rousseff was first expected in Washington in October 2013, but suspended the trip after it emerged US intelligence had tapped her telephone calls and those of millions of other Brazilians.
"The visit itself indicates that we are moving forward here," said senior Obama foreign policy aide Ben Rhodes ahead of the trip.
Obama and Rousseff are due to hold a dinner on Monday, then talks followed by a press conference on Tuesday. — AFP