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Tue Aug 6, 2013 1:50AM
Leaders attend a Mercosur summit at the Mercosur building in Montevideo, Uruguay, Friday, July 12, 2013.

Leaders attend a Mercosur summit at the Mercosur building in Montevideo, Uruguay, Friday, July 12, 2013.

Foreign ministers from the South American trade bloc Mercosur have complained to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the US global espionage practices and EU affront towards Bolivia’s Evo Morales. During a Monday meeting with Ban Ki-moon at the UN headquarters in New York, the ministerial delegation expressed its indignation over the United States global espionage system revealed by Edward Snowden, the Associated Press reported. “We are convinced that ... this practice absolutely violates international laws and the sovereignty and independence of nations, and more than that, it violates the fundamental human rights of the citizens of our countries, and of all the countries of the world,” Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Elias Jaua told reporters after the meeting. Jaua was the spokesperson of the Mercosur group of foreign ministers from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay as well as associate member Bolivia. Venezuela holds the rotating presidency of Mercosur. Jaua said the ministers expressed “our complaint, our concern, our indignation over the global espionage system that has been revealed by Mr. Snowden ... against citizens all over the world, against countries, against governments, against multilateral organizations, against public and private companies.” Jaua and Brazil’s Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota both said the UN secretary-general shared their concerns. “He reacted in a way that shows a sensitivity to the message that we conveyed from our heads of state,” Patriota said. Jaua also noted that the ministers expressed the bloc’s deep concern over the insult to Evo Morales “when he was impeded air space free passage over several European countries under suspicion that his aircraft could be transporting Mr. Snowden.” On July 2, Morales' plane was diverted to Austria due to false rumors that Snowden was on board. France, Portugal, Spain and Italy refused to allow Morales' plane, which was flying from Moscow back to Bolivia, to cross their airspace. The decision adopted by Spain, France, Italy and Portugal “seriously endangered not only the dignity of president Evo Morales, but also his own physical safety since he had to over-fly with limited fuel and was forced to land in Vienna,” Jaua added. He said the South American ministers also defended the right of asylum after Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua recently offered to grant asylum to the US surveillance whistleblower. “For us Latinamericans the right to asylum is a right all citizens can exercise as well as the right of States to be respected when they extend such a benefit, and it is a principle we are not willing to negotiate” said the Mercosur spokesperson, noting that “this very principle helped to save many lives during the hard years of the military dictatorships suffered by many countries of the region.” During the last presidential summit of Mercosur in the Uruguayan capital Montevideo on July 12, the presidents of the five countries condemned US world espionage. They also expressed their outrage over the reports that a US surveillance program is targeting emails and telephone calls across Latin America. "We emphatically reject the interception of telecommunications and espionage actions in our nations, as they constitute a violation of human rights, of the right of our citizens to privacy and information," Mercosur leaders said in the summit's final statement. "It's unacceptable behavior that breaches our sovereignty and harms relations between nations," the statement said. Snowden leaked two top secret US government spying programs under which the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are eavesdropping on millions of American and European phone records and the Internet data from major Internet companies such as Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Apple, and Microsoft. On June 9, Snowden admitted his role in the leaks in a 12-minute video recorded interview published by The Guardian. In the interview, he denounced what he described as systematic surveillance of innocent US citizens, saying his "sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them." Snowden was in the transit area of Moscow's international airport for more than a month after arriving there from Hong Kong on June 23. On August 1, he was finally given temporary asylum by Russia to spend one year in Moscow. MN/MA
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