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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

US Coast Guard Rescues 33 Cubans at Sea

Because the overloaded boat did not make landfall, those rescued will be returned to Cuba
More

Search Underway at New Site in Mexico Missing Students Case

This week marked one month since the students went missing after clashing with police in mysterious circumstances
More

Public Transport in Latin America, Asia Most Dangerous for Women

Thousands of women and gender experts were questioned to create the listing
More

Kerry Lays Wreath for Slain Canadian Soldier

World has been witness to Canada's strength in face of tragedy, he says
More

Crowds Gather for Funeral of Canadian Soldier Killed in Ottawa

Corporal Nathan Cirillo, 24, was shot dead in last week near Canada's parliament building in attack allegedly carried out by convert to Islam
More

Mexico Makes New Arrests in Student Disappearances

Attorney General says four more gang members from the Guerreros Unidos cartel who 'organized the disappearance' of the teacher trainees are in custody
More