Friday, July 12, 2013

Latin American Governments Irate Over U.S. Spying Allegations

Senior officials of several Latin American countries, including some of the region’s strongest allies to the U.S., have spoken out this week over alleged surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) throughout the Americas.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota admitted today that he might contact Snowden even though the former contractor is believed to be in hiding somewhere in Moscow, Russia’s main international airport.

“Mr. Snowden's participation in an investigation is absolutely relevant and pertinent," Patriota said during a Senate hearing. He added that U.S. Ambassador Thomas Shannon told Brazilian officials that the U.S. does not access the content of emails but does collect metadata on email traffic. 

Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported this week that it obtained documents leaked by intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden regarding “data mining programs” by the NSA.  At least fifteen Latin American countries were supposedly under surveillance for a variety of security-related issues such as oil in Venezuela, energy in Mexico and information on Colombia’s FARC rebels. 
Furthermore, the paper claimed that the U.S. ran a “data-collection base” in Brazil and that Brazilian telecoms firms cooperated with U.S. intelligence agencies to facilitate surveillance.

“We need to see where data was stored,” President Dilma Rousseff told reporters on Monday as Brazilian authorities launched an investigation into the data storage policies of technology companies such as Google.

Colombia's Foreign Ministry requested days ago that U.S. government give an account of the “unauthorized data collection program” via its ambassador in Bogota.

“In rejecting the acts of espionage that violate people's rights and intimacy as well as the international conventions on telecommunication, Colombia requests the corresponding explanations from the United States government through its ambassador to Colombia,” the Foreign Ministry proclaimed in a statement.

“We have asked quite clearly, via the foreign ministry ... for an explanation from the government ... about possible spying,” declared Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto to reporters on Wednesday.

“And we want to know if this is the case, and if it so, it would obviously be totally unacceptable,” added Peña Nieto though he also noted that U.S.-Mexico relations remain strong.

The Chilean government also strongly condemned the “spying practices, whatever their origin, nature and objectives” and also rejected “any violation of the privacy of communications networks.”

Regarding Snowden, meanwhile, he has received over the past week offers of political asylum from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia.  He has yet to accept any of them, however, and it’s unknown how he will travel to any one of these countries should he accept one of the bids for asylum.

The question of granting Snowden asylum in Venezuela has become the latest topic of disagreement between that country's president and his main political rival:
"Several countries in Latin America decided--for dignity and as a clear message to imperialism--that we are not afraid, that the children of Bolivar do not fear the empire, to grant political asylum to the young man Edward Snowden," Maduro said in a public speech on Tuesday...

“I would like to know if Maduro stopped to think about the consequences this conflict can bring to our people,” (opposition leader Henrique) Capriles said in his weekly television program, according to the Spanish publication “What if the United States decided not to buy more oil? They are so irresponsible to further endanger the economic situation."  

The U.S. spying allegations come amid disappointment in the region after several European countries prohibited the Bolivian presidential plane from flying through their respective airspaces.  The jet, which was flying from Russia, was grounded for about fourteen hours in Austria because of suspicions that Snowden was smuggled on board the aircraft.    

Video Source– YouTube via NTDTV

Online Sources - Sydney Morning Herald; Bloomberg; Voice of America; BBC News; Reuters; Santiago Times; ABC News

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