Last week, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff canceled plans to visit Washington to meet with President Obama, angry about leaked NSA documents suggesting that she’s been a target of surveillance.
The White House downplayed the South American country’s anger. “The President has said that he understands and regrets the concerns disclosures of alleged U.S. intelligence activities have generated in Brazil and made clear that he is committed to working together with President Rousseff and her government in diplomatic channels to move beyond this issue as a source of tension in our bilateral relationship,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement last week announcing the change in plans. “As the President previously stated, he has directed a broad review of U.S. intelligence posture, but the process will take several months to complete. President Obama and President Rousseff both look forward to the State Visit, which will celebrate our broad relationship and should not be overshadowed by a single bilateral issue, no matter how important or challenging the issue may be.”
Carney said the new date was Oct. 23, but then in the next breath said they’d meet “at a date to be mutually agreed.”
Rousseff spoke directly before Obama at the UN General Assembly today, and made clear the wounds are still very fresh.
“I wish to bring to the attention of attending delegations an issue which I view as being utterly important and serious. Recently disclosed information on the activities carried out by a global network of electronic spying has brought about anger and repudiation in vast sectors of public opinion worldwide,” she said.
“In Brazil, the situation was even more serious since we, Brazil, feature as a target of such an intrusion. Citizens’ personal data and information have been indiscriminately targeted and intercepted. Business information, often times of high economic and even strategic value have been the target of spying activity.”
She added that “communications by Brazilian diplomatic representation offices, including the permanent mission of Brazil with the United Nations and even the very presidency of Republic of Brazil were subject to intersection of communications.”
“Meddling in such a manner in the lives and affairs of other countries is a breach of international law,” Rousseff said. “And as such, it is an affrontment to the principles that should otherwise govern relations among countries, especially among friendly nations. A country’s sovereignty can never affirm itself to the detriment of another country’s sovereignty.”
“The right to security of a country’s citizens can never be ensured by violating the fundamental human and civil rights of another country’s citizens. Even worse, when private sector companies uphold this type of spying activity,” she continued. “The argument that illegal interception of information and data is allegedly intended to protect nations against terrorism is untenable.”
“Without the right to privacy, there is no real freedom of speech or freedom of opinion. And, therefore, there is no actual democracy. Without respect of sovereignty, there is no base for proper relations among nations.”
Rousseff said the international community is now faced with “a serious case of violation of human rights and civil liberties, a case of invasion and capture of confidential secret information pertaining to business activities. And, above all, a case of disrespect to national sovereignty, the national sovereignty of my country.”
“We have let the U.S. government know about our protests, by demanding explanations, apologies and guarantees that such acts or procedures will never be repeated again,” she said. “Friendly governments and societies that seek to consolidate a truly strategic partnership, such as is our case, cannot possibly allow recurring and illegal actions to go on as if they were normal, ordinary practice. Such actions are totally unacceptable.”
“…The problem, however, goes beyond the bilateral relations of two countries. It affects the international community itself and, as such, requires an answer from it.”
The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Rio, said the Edward Snowden leaks revealed spying on Brazil and intercepted emails of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.