By Julian Pecquet - 08/13/13 08:51 PM EDT
The remarks by Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota follow a report last month in Brazil's O Globo newspaper accusing the NSA of intercepting the phone calls of millions of Brazilians and other Latin Americans, based on revelations from leaker Edward Snowden. The disclosures of NSA spying on foreign communications have outraged people around the world, forcing their governments to criticize U.S. surveillance programs.
“We're now facing a new type of challenge in our bilateral relationship,” Patriota said at a news conference with Kerry, according to The Associated Press. “The challenge is related to news about the interception of Brazilian electronic and telephone communications. And if those challenges are not resolved in a satisfactory way, we run the risk of casting a shadow of distrust over our work.”
He called on the Obama administration to “stop practices that violate sovereignty.”
Kerry defended the program as legal and aimed at stopping terrorist acts. But he said Brazil was “owed answers.”
“We're not surprised and we're not upset that Brazil would ask questions,” he said. “Absolutely understandable.”
“Today we did touch on this subject with Secretary Kerry, but beyond this, the cooperation between the two countries from the time this came up in the face of public opinion has been very important,” said Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin.
Kerry's first visit to South America as secretary of State aimed at shoring up trade and energy cooperation ahead of a planned visit to Washington by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in October. Brazil is the world's seventh largest economy and is among the United States's top 10 trading partners.
Three Latin American countries – Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela – have offered asylum to Snowden. Russia has granted the former NSA contractor temporary asylum for one year, further straining relations with the United States.
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