News / Americas

South American Bloc Repudiates US on Spying, Snowden

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez (L, foreground) participates in a working breakfast with her counterparts of the Mercosur trade bloc and special guests summit in Montevideo, Uruguay, July 12, 2013.
Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez (L, foreground) participates in a working breakfast with her counterparts of the Mercosur trade bloc and special guests summit in Montevideo, Uruguay, July 12, 2013.
Reuters
South American leaders had strong words for Washington on Friday over allegations of U.S. spying in the region and defended their right to offer asylum to fugitive former U.S spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.
 
Washington wants Snowden arrested on espionage charges after he divulged extensive, secret U.S. surveillance programs. Stuck in the transit area of Moscow's international airport since late June, he is seeking asylum in various countries.
 
Capping two weeks of strained North-South relations over the Snowden saga, presidents from the Mercosur bloc of nations met in Montevideo. Complaints against the United States were high on the agenda, as Washington warned the international community not to help the 30-year-old Snowden get away.
 
“We repudiate any action aimed at undermining the authority of countries to grant and fully implement the right of asylum,” Mercosur said in a statement at the close of Friday's summit.
 
The statement called for “solidarity with the governments of Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela, which have offered to grant asylum to Mr. Edward Snowden.”
 
The Mercosur bloc comprises Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina,
 Uruguay and Paraguay.
 
“This global espionage case has shaken the conscience of the people of the United States and has upset the world,” Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said.
 
The meeting began as reports emerged that Snowden wants to travel eventually to Latin America after seeking temporary asylum in Russia.
 
The U.S.-Russian relationship would be troubled if Moscow were to accept an asylum request from Snowden, the U.S. State Department said. President Barack Obama raised U.S. concerns directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday.
 
Spying allegations
 
Leaders throughout Latin America are also furious over reports the U.S. National Security Agency targeted most Latin American countries with spying programs that monitored Internet traffic, especially in Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and Mexico.
 
In its statement, Mercosur said, “We emphatically reject the
 interception of  telecommunications and espionage activities in our countries, as they are a violation of human rights and citizens' right to privacy and information.”
 
It also called for the spy scandal to be brought before the U.N. Security Council.
 
The espionage allegations were published by a leading Brazilian newspaper, O Globo, on Tuesday. The U.S. ambassador to Brazil, Thomas Shannon, said this week the reports gave an incorrect picture of U.S. data gathering.
 
“This is the world we live in; a world with new forms of colonialism,” Argentine President Cristina Fernandez said in her closing remarks in Montevideo. “It is more subtle than it was two centuries ago, when they came with armies to take our silver and gold.”
 
Colombia, Washington's closest military ally in Latin America, and Mexico, its top business partner, have also joined the chorus of governments seeking answers.
 
“Any act of espionage that violates human rights, above all the basic right to privacy, and undermines the sovereignty of nations, deserves to be condemned by any country that calls itself democratic, “ Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff told reporters on arrival at the meeting.
 
Rousseff, who was imprisoned under military rule in Brazil in the early 1970s, said the rights issue was particularly important for South American countries that lived under dictatorships for years and are now democracies.
 
Asylum concerns
 
U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay made her first comment on the Snowden case on Friday, saying people needed to be sure their communications were not being unduly scrutinized and calling on all countries to respect the right to seek asylum.
 
Snowden said in a letter posted on Friday on the Facebook page of the New-York based Human Rights Watch that the United States had been pressuring countries not to accept him. Obama has warned of serious costs to any country that takes him in.
 
Despite their fiery rhetoric and public offers of asylum, few in Latin America seem particularly keen to welcome Snowden and risk damaging trade and economic ties with Washington.
 
Cuba and Venezuela are both in a cautious rapprochement with the United States that could be jeopardized if they helped Snowden.
 
Still, leaders recalled that many of their own citizens sought asylum abroad during the military dictatorships of the Cold War era.
 
South American leaders rallied in support of Bolivian President Evo Morales last week after he said he was denied access to the airspace of Portugal, France, Italy and Spain on suspicion Snowden might be on board his plane as Morales flew home from a visit to Russia.
 
Bolivia is an associate member of Mercosur, and Morales attended Friday's meeting. The Mercosur statement said bloc member countries would call their ambassadors in from the four European countries for consultations.

You May Like

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Crowdfunding Helps Save Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit

Smithsonian turns to Kickstarter to raise more than $700,000 to help preserve the spacesuit worn by the first man to walk on the moon More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Brazil, Argentina Seek to Resolve Colombia-Venezuela Border Spat

Venezuelan President last month closed several crossings, deported 1,300 Colombians in what he called a crackdown on smuggling, crime in turbulent area
More

Brazil Prosecutors Charge Lula's Former Chief of Staff

Jose Dirceu, who served in post from 2003-2005, is one of the most senior members of ruling Workers' Party targeted by prosecutors in massive scandal
More

Venezuela's Lopez Set to Give Closing Remarks at Trial

Opposition leader is charged with inciting violence in bloody protest movement in 2014, could face more than 10 years in prison
More

Guatemala's Ex-President Goes to Court After Night Behind Bars

Perez Molina's jailing followed historic day in which he resigned and country's Congress swore in VP Alejandro Maldonado to serve remainder of his term
More

Puerto Rican Voters Prized by Democrats, Republicans

Five million Puerto Ricans live on US mainland, including nearly 1 million in key swing state of Florida, and they care about what happens back on the island
More

Russia, Venezuela Seek to Combat Oil Price Woes

The price of oil has roughly halved since last year due to oversupply and a decision by the OPEC cartel not to cut production
More