US insists that spying allegations won’t affect Brazil relations

Brasilia opens inquiry to see if telecoms cooperated with Washington in mass espionage program

President Dilma Rousseff.
President Dilma Rousseff.EFE

The United States said Monday that it is maintaining diplomatic conversations with Brazil in a bid to ensure that the latest revelations — showing that Washington targeted millions of Brazilians in its secret intelligence gathering network — do not affect bilateral relations.

A State Department spokeswoman said that Washington would not make public the ongoing conversations “through normal diplomatic channels.”

“As has been our policy, we’re not going to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity,” said spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Tuesday. “As a matter of policy, we have been clear that the United States does gather foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations. I can tell you that we have spoken with Brazilian officials regarding these allegations.”

Brazil has become the latest nation to become enmeshed in the diplomatic row caused by the information leaked by former National Security Agency agent Edward Snowden. According to the whistleblower, Washington targeted the South American nation as part of its massive intelligence-gathering effort and monitored internal communications.

The Brazilian daily O Globo, in collaboration with Britain’s The Guardian, reported over the weekend the United States spied on millions of Brazilians through telecommunications companies via a network of listening posts set up around the nation. O Globo on Tuesday also included Venezuela, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico in the list of nations that have been spied on.

On Monday, the Brazilian government opened an investigation to determine whether telecommunication firms did cooperate with US intelligence-gathering efforts as has been reported.

The spying revelations come just three months before President Dilma Rousseff is due to make her first official visit to Washington – the first by a Brazilian leader in 20 years.

Psaki told reporters during a briefing that the US government trusts this matter won’t affect the trip. “We work with Brazil on a wide range of issues and we are hopeful that we can continue to discuss and resolve them through normal diplomatic conversations,” she said.

Relations between the two nations had been slowly improving following a rocky period during Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s two-term presidency. During his visit in May, US Secretary of State Joe Biden said that he hoped that “2013 would be a new beginning for both nations.”

Still the government in Brasilia is very concerned about the spying allegations, said Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Brazil was expected to decide on Tuesday whether to ask that US Ambassador to Brazil Thomas Shannon appear before the panel.

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