News / Americas

Kerry in Colombia, Brazil Where Surveillance Concerns Loom

Colombia's Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon (L) shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a visit to the anti-narcotics department in Bogota, August 12, 2013.
Colombia's Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon (L) shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry during a visit to the anti-narcotics department in Bogota, August 12, 2013.
Alex Villarreal
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is spending the start of his week in Colombia and Brazil, as part of the Obama administration's efforts to boost ties with Latin America. But those relationships have been clouded recently by South American concerns about U.S. surveillance programs reported to have targeted communications across the region.

Secretary Kerry began his first visit to South America as the United States' top diplomat in Colombia.

One of his first stops: a sports program for soldiers and police wounded by landmines in Colombia’s long-running war with the Western Hemisphere's most dangerous rebel group - the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - currently in peace talks with the government.

“We will do everything possible that we can do to try to be helpful, to support this program and other programs and ultimately to try to help bring peace in Colombia,” Kerry said.

It is that spirit of cooperation the U.S. has been promoting with many South American countries. But reports that the U.S. government surveillance programs leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden included monitoring of emails and telephone calls in Latin America have complicated those relationships

Last week, Brazil's Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota and his counterparts from Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay and Venezuela went to the United Nations to voice their “indignation” about the spy program to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Venezuela’s foreign minister Elias Jaua spoke for the group.

He said the South American countries expressed their concern over what he called the "grave implications that the illegal procedures" carried out by the U.S. government have on the "political stability of the countries and on mutual trust necessary in the international community."

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said he is seeking clarification from the U.S. about its intelligence gathering, while Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff said her country does not agree at all with such interference.

Carl Meacham, director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Brazilians’ concerns date back to the Cold War era, when the U.S supported authoritarian regimes in Latin America.

“The involvement of the United States in support of some of these governments that used questionable methods, that used torture, is sort of present in the minds of many Brazilians, and what they attach this whole issue of surveillance to is the United States acting as a big brother," stated Meacham. "And they would say, 'On the one hand, you have the president of the United States that wants to reach out and be nice and develop a closer relationship,' but on the other hand, they would say that, 'If you're trying to develop a closer relationship with us, why are you spying on us?'”

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Monday the administration has been clear that it will continue discussing with foreign partners the issues raised by the NSA disclosures, but that those issues should not “overshadow” the important work the U.S. has to do with those nations.

“We believe it’s important that this discussion, while in and of itself is important, but it shouldn’t detract from the broad bilateral relationships we have around the world with a variety of countries that we work with both on security cooperation, but on a host of other issues as well,” said Harf.

Meacham said the real issue is that the U.S. got caught, not that it is doing anything different in terms of surveillance than other countries, including Brazil.  "Compared to a lot of the countries that are being highlighted - Chinese, the Russians, countries where Mr. Snowden has taken asylum, these are countries that have far worse records with democracy and human rights than the United States," he said.

And he said the current resentment is likely to pass. "I don’t think it’s going to have a long-lasting damaging effect. I think that the United States continues to be the biggest market, and the United States continues to be a country that is promoting democracy and human rights, and I would put the United States against any of these countries with regards to their records on human rights and democracy," Meacham stated. "But I do think in the short term, it will make for some tense meetings, particularly in Brazil."

Kerry visits Brazil Tuesday, where he is likely to address the international surveillance concerns.

On Monday, President Barack Obama directed U.S. intelligence chief James Clapper to form a group to review the way the nation conducts such monitoring. He said the group should assess whether, in light of advancements in communication technologies, the U.S. employs its intelligence gathering capabilities in the best way for its national security and foreign policy, while appropriately accounting for other considerations, including the "need to maintain the public trust."

You May Like

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Honduran President Hails Drop in Murder Rate

Juan Orlando Hernandez says deployment of special military police has cut country's murder rate, one of the world's highest, by 23 percent
More

Thousands of Venezuelan Opposition Supporters Protest in Caracas

Angry about inflation and shortages of goods, they want an end to the presidency of Nicolas Maduro
More

Haiti Electoral Council Called 'New Step' Toward Democracy

Impoverished Caribbean nation has not held legislative or municipal elections for three years, is due for presidential election at year's end
More

Argentine Government Thinks Rogue Agents Killed Prosecutor

Alberto Nisman, who was investigating the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, was found fatally shot last Sunday
More

In Shortages-hit Venezuela, Lining Up Becomes a Profession

Job usually involves starting before dawn, enduring long hours, dodging or bribing police, and then selling a coveted spot at front of huge shopping lines
More

Video Jacobson: US-Cuba Talks Are 'Important' Step

U.S.-Cuba are trying to eliminate obstacles to normalized ties; U.S. delegation visit for the first time in more than three decades holds a second day of talks with Cuban officials
More