New York          Cesar Chelala

The information that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff provoked strong condemnation throughout Latin America. One of the strongest complaints was the demand by the Brazilian President for the U.S. to cease on these activities. President Rousseff made her remarks at the opening of the general debate of the 68th session of the United Nations Assembly in New York on September 24, 2013.

According to a report on Globo TV out of Rio de Janeiro, the NSA had intercepted President Dilma Rousseff e-mails and telephone calls and prompted her to cancel a planned visit to Washington. Speaking at the United Nations, President Rousseff said, “Tampering in such a manner in the affairs of other countries is a breach of International Law and is an affront to the principles that must guide the relations among them, especially among friendly nations.”

President Rousseff also stated, “A sovereign nation can never establish itself to the detriment of another sovereign nation. The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another country. The arguments that the illegal interception of information and data aims at protecting nations against terrorism cannot be sustained.”

The Brazilian President remarks came at a time in which most Latin American countries, having overcome decades of autocratic governments, are enjoying the advantages of democracy and are trying to gain independence from the U.S. hegemony in the Americas.

As President Rousseff stated in her presentation, “We are a democratic country surrounded by nations that are democratic, pacific and respectful of International Law. We have lived in peace with our neighbors for more than 140 years. As many other Latin Americans, I fought against authoritarianism and censorship, and I cannot but defend, in an uncompromising fashion, the right to privacy of individuals and the sovereignty of my country.”

With a presidential election coming next year, President Rousseff spirited stand at the United Nations may help her gain back some of the popularity she lost during recent widespread protest movements in her own country. President Rousseff’s remarks add to other foreign policy disagreements with the U.S., in which the South American giant is trying to counterbalance the U.S. strong influence in the region. Latin Americans see these activities as one more proof of the U.S.’s long-standing interference in the countries’ internal affairs.

Latin Americans cannot forget the U.S. role in the overthrown of democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende, the support for the “Contras” in Nicaragua, the futile Cuban embargo or many other instances where the U.S. exerted unwelcome influence in the political affairs of the countries in the region.

The U.S. ‘s spying activities that have surfaced now, however, could be interpreted as a wake up call for the United States to change its policies towards its Latin American neighbors, who are eager for a more harmonious relationship with the U.S. Respect for the countries’ sovereignty and basic privacy are essential components of a new relationship.

As President Rousseff stated at the United Nations, “In the absence of the right to privacy 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.” 

Dr. Cesar Chelala is the foreign correspondent for The Middle East Times International (Australia).


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