Kerry trip to Brazil, Colombia could be chilly
By Deb Riechmann, APBOGOTA, Colombia -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's attempts to build warmer relations with two U.S. allies in Latin America may be hindered by resentment after reports about an American spy program that widely targeted data in emails and telephone calls across the region.
August 13, 2013, 11:44 am TWN
Kerry is visiting Brazil and Colombia this week, his first trip to South America as the Obama administration's chief diplomat. It comes at a time that disclosures by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden could chill talks on several fronts.
Those include trade and energy, and even discussions about the Oct. 23 state dinner that President Barack Obama is hosting for Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff.
Kerry arrived late Sunday in Bogota, the Colombian capital. The country is holding peace talks to end a half century-old conflict with the Western Hemisphere's most potent rebel army, a rebel force diminished in strength thanks in considerable measure to U.S. military and intelligence support.
Colombia's president, Juan Manuel Santos, said Thursday that he wanted clarification from Washington on whether U.S. intelligence-gathering in Colombia had overstepped the countries' joint operations against drug traffickers and illegal armed groups. The U.S. has supplied Colombia with eavesdropping equipment, technicians and aerial surveillance.
Santos said in an interview with The Associated Press that Vice President Joe Biden called him about the issue following revelations by Snowden that U.S digital snooping has targeted allies as well as foes. Santos said Biden offered a series of technical explanations. Asked if he was satisfied with them, Santos replied, “We are in that process.”
Biden also called Rousseff to express what Brazil's communications minister, Helena Chagas, said was “his regret over the negative repercussions caused by the disclosures.” Biden invited Brazilian officials to Washington to get details about the spy program.
Rousseff told Biden that the privacy of Brazilian citizens and the country's sovereignty cannot be infringed upon in the name of security, and that Brazil wanted the U.S. to change its security policies and practices.
During Kerry's visit, the U.S. wants to show its support for the peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which are taking place in Cuba.