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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Brazil’s State Oil Company Takes Massive Loss From Corruption

Investigation has resulted, so far, in indictment of 97 people on charges of corruption, forming cartels and money laundering
More

Colorful Macaws Bring Beauty to Chaotic Caracas

Long-tailed birds color Venezuelan capital's sky, giving its 5 million residents a moment of quiet respite from noise and crime
More

Colombia's ELN Rebels: Peace Talks Near, Rule Out Jail

Commander's comments come as pressure mounts for President Santos to conclude peace talks with far larger FARC group and to show progress with ELN
More

Photogallery Chile Volcano Still Puffing; Flights Canceled in Argentina

Calbuco, which erupted Wednesday without warning, continues to spew ash, smoke
More

Former Spy Master Flees Argentina Amid Threats

Antonio Stiuso contends government is trying to sully his reputation following death of prosecutor Alberto Nisman
More

Chile, Argentina Cancel Flights as Volcanic Ash Cloud Spreads

Argentina's meteorology service forecast ash cloud could reach La Pampa; more than 4,000 people have been evacuated from immediate area
More