Monday, July 8, 2013

Brazilian Government Responds to US Spying

As if Dilma didn't have enough problems,
now she has to deal with fallout from Snowden's leaks.
The Financial Times reports that the Brazilian government has responded to charges that Brazil was the largest target of US spying in the Western Hemisphere, aside from the US itself. A report published in Globo, co-authored by Glenn Greenwald, used information from documents released by Edward Snowden to support its claims. 

The Brazilian government has asked for "clarification" on the allegations from the US Ambassador to Brazil, as well as through the Brazilian embassy in Washington DC. It will also work within the United Nations to impose limits on digital surveillance. 

This all comes on the heels of Dilma's condemnation last week of the manner in which Bolivian President Evo Morales was treated, as he attempted to return to Bolivia from a trip to Russia. Mr. Morales' jet was forced to land in Vienna after several European countries refused to allow it to travel in their airspace. There was some suspicion that Mr. Snowden might have been aboard Mr. Morales' plane.

While no direct evidence has yet surfaced to prove that the European governments were acting at the request of the United States, many have assumed that is what happened. 

The US has an unfortunate history of generations of meddling in Latin American countries. At best, the US has tended to treat its Latin American neighbors in a cavalier and disrespectful manner. At worst, in the past it has become actively involved in domestic politics (Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, just to name some particularly infamous cases), with military invasions, propping up repressive regimes, or working to depose democratically elected leaders. 

While US relations with Latin American countries have improved in recent decades, there's a great deal of negative history to overcome, and this latest revelation is a setback. For all of these reasons, it's understandable that Latin American leaders would be angry about the alleged mistreatment of one of their own. Indeed, they have every right to be. 

Public opinion in the US about Mr. Snowden (and Mr. Greenwald) is divided, with some people calling them heroes, while other condemn Mr. Snowden as a traitor, and criticize Mr. Greenwald as a self-promoting publicity hound. 

Regardless of one's opinion, it's a fact that Mr. Snowden has released classified government documents, in one of the largest security breaches in NSA history. It is suspected that he may have additional documents which he has not yet released. 

On June 14, 2013, Snowden was charged by Federal prosecutors with espionage and theft of government property. As of now, he remains stranded in Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport. Several countries (including Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Bolivia) have offered him political asylum, but his US passport has been revoked, and without travel documents, it's impossible for him to leave Moscow. 

Russian leaders have made it clear that they are running out of patience and would like to see Mr. Snowden depart from Russian territory, but it remains unclear how that can happen. 

While the Brazilian people and their government are understandably upset by the latest news about massive US spying in their country, most observers believe that it's unlikely that Brazil would offer Snowden asylum. 

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