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Brazil Seeks Support from the UN in US Spying Row

07/12/2013 - 08h52

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BERNARDO MELLO FRANCO
FROM LONDON

Brazilian diplomats have begun efforts to win the support of foreign governments at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), in a protest against the mass surveillance programs operated by the United States.

The government intends to present a formal condemnation of US data collection techniques at the next meeting of the UNHRC, due to take place in Geneva, Switzerland, on the 9th of September.

By that date Brazil hopes to unite a bloc of countries powerful enough to oblige Washington to provide clearer explanations regarding the activities of the NSA (National Security Agency) and the use of the PRISM surveillance system, the existence of which came to worldwide attention last month following revelations made by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Angelika Warmuth/AFP
Demonstrators with posters of U.S intelligence contractor Edward Snowden protest against US National Security Agenca (NSA) surveillance program, in front of the US consulate in Hamburg, Germany.
Demonstrators with posters of U.S intelligence contractor Edward Snowden protest against US National Security Agenca (NSA) surveillance program, in front of the US consulate in Hamburg, Germany.

Initial discussions suggest that the task will not be an easy one. Negotiators have told Folha that European diplomats are reluctant to give their backing to the project, fearing reprisals from the US if they do so. There are concerns that Brazil may end up isolated. To avoid this, an offensive will be made in the coming weeks to rally support for the protest.

The idea to take the case to the UN was launched by President Dilma Rousseff on Monday, following the news that Brazil was also spied upon by the NSA.

In the text due to be read in Geneva, the government will argue that liberty of expression, a right so prized by the United States, is one conditional upon the privacy of the common citizen. It will also criticize the massive collection of data from other countries as a practice which violates national sovereignties.

The UNHRC does not have punitive powers, but a resolution on the scandal would be highly embarrassing for the Obama administration. This is the reasoning of the Brazilian government, which also sees in the row an opportunity to push for greater influence in international affairs.

So far the government has only managed to win the support of seven other countries which currently hold seats at the UNHRC, all of which are Latin American. The council is composed of 47 non-permanent members.

Translated by TOM GATEHOUSE

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