World Bulletin/News Desk
Brazil’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio Patriota reiterated on Monday his demand for urgent clarifications from the United States over allegations that the NSA – America’s communications monitoring machine – intercepted millions of emails and telephone calls made by people resident in, or in transit through, Brazil.
After a meeting with his Nigerian counterpart Olugbenga Ayodeji Ashiru, Patriota told reporters that a “number of clarifications” had already been provided by the US, but that there had been no additional information as of July 10 and that the government considered the official response “insufficient”.
“A technical team has been brought together here in Brazil, with representatives from the ministries of justice, defence, foreign affairs, the GSI [Institutional Security Cabinet] and science & technology to outline questions for us to request additional clarifications. We have yet to decide over our technical mission. The next step is still under consideration,” Patriota said.
Last week the Brazilian government urged the State Department and US Embassy in the Brazilian capital, Brasília, to explain the widespread monitoring of civilian and corporate communications alleged by Brazil’s O Globo newspaper.
US ambassador ‘not authorized’ to speak to Senate
Although the US Ambassador to Brazil, Thomas Shannon, has already met with the Minister of Communications Paulo Bernardo – at which time he denied the allegations and said the US surveillance program had been incorrectly portrayed by the media – the President of the Brazilian Senate’s External Affairs Commission, Ricardo Ferraço, said on Monday that Mr. Shannon had made it known that he had not been given authorization by the US government to give clarifications to the Senate over the allegations.
However, Ferraço said he believed the Ambassador would still take up the Senate’s offer to give “the explanations that Brazilian society desires” over spy allegations which were “of great seriousness.”
The Ambassador reportedly said at the meeting that, although the US had intensified its investigative programs after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, the country was not intercepting the contents of communications, but only information identifying the time, date, and people involved in any communications.
Senate to quiz whistleblowers
The journalist who originally reported information from fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden both about the existence of the NSA’s Prism spy program in the UK’s Guardian newspaper and the extent of US surveillance in Brazil and Latin American in O Globo, Glenn Greenwald, is set to face questions from Senators on Tuesday.
Mr. Greenwald, a US citizen who lives in Rio de Janeiro, has been responsible for exposing information gathered by Snowden about the United States’ widespread monitoring programs. His allegations about the scale of the operations in Latin America have caused outrage from a range of leaders.
Ferraço told reporters the Senate had “many questions” to ask Greenwald – questions which had so far received insufficient answers from elsewhere – and that the Commission was planning to speak to Snowden himself, if the American citizen, currently holed up in a Russian airport with no travel documents to enable him to leave, were to up asylum in Latin America, particularly in Venezuela.
Brazil is said to be particularly interested in asking Snowden whether information was leaked relating to Project F-X2, concerning Brazil’s long-anticipated purchase of Boeing F/A18 Super Hornet fighter jets from the American manufacturer, and the country’s vast ultra-deep “pre-salt” oil reserves discovered off its coastline – fields containing some of which have been auctioned to foreign oil companies.
The destination of “pre-salt” royalties have been the subject of fierce debate in Brazil: firstly over whether they should be divided and given to all states (and not just the three oil-producing ones), and now over whether the profits should be invested in their entirety into improving Brazil’s substandard public education system, or whether split with other public services, chiefly the SUS – Brazil’s poor public health system, as part of wide-ranging reforms announced by the government in response to June’s nationwide mass protests, the biggest in twenty years, which left Brazil reeling.
Mercosur still working on response to Morales plane row
Patriota also said on Monday that conversations with his counterparts from the other active Mercosur countries – Uruguay, Argentina and Venezuela – were progressing towards asking the ambassadors of four European countries to explain why they banned Bolivian President Evo Morales’s aircraft from entering their airspace on July 3.
France, Portugal, Spain and Italy have played down the incident, saying they were acting on information that Snowden was on board the plane. It led to the presidential jet being grounded in Austria for 13 hours.
Mercosur leaders have expressed outrage at the incident and believe the European countries clarify their actions and apologize formally to President Morales.
Paraguay, which has been suspended from the Mercosur economic bloc since June 2012 when former President Fernando Lugo was impeached and ousted – a step the group deemed undemocratic, is expected to rejoin the bloc when new president Horacio Cartes takes office on August 15, despite opposition from Cartes to Venezuela’s assuming the Mercosur presidency after joining the group in July 2012.Last Mod: 16 Temmuz 2013, 12:24