Brazilian president blasts US for spying

Updated: 2013-09-25 09:14


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UNITED NATIONS - Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Tuesday slammed the United States for "meddling" in her country's affairs by widespread espionage -- the surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA), calling it "a breach of international law."

"Recent revelations concerning the activities of a global network of electronic espionage have caused indignation and repudiation in public opinion around the world," she said.

The Brazilian president made the statement while speaking at the annual high-level debate of the UN General Assembly. She took the podium just before US President Barack Obama.

"In Brazil, the situation was even more serious, as it emerged that we were targeted by this intrusion," Rousseff said.

"Personal data of citizens was intercepted indiscriminately," she said. "Corporate information -- often of high economic and even strategic value -- was at the center of espionage activity."

"Also, Brazilian diplomatic missions, among them the Permanent Mission of to the United Nations and the Office of the President of the Republic itself had their communications intercepted," she added. "Tampering in such a manner in the affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and is an affront of the principles that must guide the relations among them, especially among friendly nations," Rousseff said.

"A sovereign nation can never establish itself to the detriment of another sovereign nation," she said. "The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another country."

According to her, the arguments that the illegal interception of information and data aims at protecting nations against terrorism cannot be sustained.

The information of US spying on Brazil was first brought to light by documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and further detailed in local daily O Globo and TV program Fantastico.

The documents indicated that the US government has for years carried out a widespread surveillance scheme that monitored millions of e-mails and phone calls made by Brazilian citizens and companies, as well as foreigners in the country.

The revelations have strained the Brazil-US relations. The US did not deny the surveillance, but alleged that the program was part of a strategy to prevent acts of terrorism and therefore would continue.

Washington's efforts to smooth over Brazil's outrage over the NSA espionage have so far been rebuffed by Rousseff, who has proposed that Brazil build its own internet infrastructure.

As a result, Rousseff announced earlier this month her decision to postpone an official visit to Washington DC scheduled for Oct. 23, after the US government failed to adequately explain its alleged spying activity in Brazil.

"We expressed to the government of the United States our disapproval, and demanded explanation, apologies and guarantees that such procedures will never be repeated," the president said.

In the absence of the rights to privacy, Rousseff stressed, " there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy. In the absence of the respect for sovereignty, there is no basis for the relationship among Nations."

As host to the UN headquarters, the US has been attacked from the general assembly many times in the past. However, what made Rousseff's denunciation all the more painful diplomatically was the fact that it came from a large, increasingly powerful and historically friendly state.