Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rousseff Blasts NSA Spying at UN General Assembly

The United Nations General Assembly kicked off yesterday with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff issuing a sharp condemnation of the United States’ digital surveillance programs abroad, accusing the U.S. of violating universal human rights. The National Security Agency’s international espionage work, she said, amounts to “a breach of international law and an affront” to her country’s sovereignty. Reuters notes that the Brazilian president used unusually strong language, calling the NSA surveillance “totally unacceptable.”

As the Washington Post reports, Rousseff also characterized the NSA’s programs as a threat to global democracy, calling for UN regulation of the internet to safeguard its integrity. “Without the right of privacy there is no real freedom of speech or freedom of opinion, and so there is no actual democracy,” she said. And “without respect for [a nation's] sovereignty, there is no basis for proper relations among nations.” Rousseff also said her country would lead the way in presenting initiatives for a “civilian multilateral framework” for internet governance.

Much of the coverage of Rousseff’s remarks has focused on their anti-U.S. tone, as well as the implications of her recent decision to postpone a state visit to Washington. The New York Times' Room for Debate blog features arguments by analysts over which nation has the most to lose from the move. While Eric Farnsworth of the Council of the Americas and Americas Society maintains that Brazil has lost a key opportunity to position her country in the Obama administration’s agenda, Oliver Stuenkel of the Fundação Getulio Vargas argues that the U.S. has more to lose, as the canceled visit focuses attention on its unpopular NSA espionage and may cost it a lucrative defense contract with the South American country.

Aside from the lofty rhetoric of Rousseff’s UN speech, there is an element of hypocrisy in her insistence on respect for free speech and privacy in cyberspace. As security analyst James Bosworth points out, Brazil’s strict libel laws have been used to silence bloggers and journalists in the country, and the country has been criticized for holding internet service providers, liable for messages created by third parties.

News Briefs
  • Uruguayan President Jose Mujica did not touch on drug policy reform in his speech to the General Assembly yesterday evening, despite speculation that he would defend the marijuana regulation bill currently being debated in his country. Instead, he gave a typically ponderous 40-minute long speech which touched on a wide array of subjects ranging from consumerism, war, climate change, globalization and Uruguay’s place in international relations. El Observador has a good overview of the highlights of his speech, including such choice quotes as: “So long as mankind lives in a climate of war, he is stuck in prehistory.”
  • But while Mujica excluded any mention of drug policy in his speech, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos used his address yesterday evening to echo previous calls for a shift in the dominant global approach to drug policy. Saying that the “war on drugs” had not been won, Santos called on UN member states to consider the findings of the recent OAS report on drug policy at the 2016 UN special session on drugs.
  • It seems Santos will not be alone in stressing drug policy at the UN this week. El Periodico reports that Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina has announced that he will deliver a speech to the General Assembly on Thursday on “new routes against drugs.”
  • La Silla Vacia profiles the three main stumbling blocks in the Colombian peace process: the upcoming legislative and presidential elections next year, the issue of political representation for the FARC, and striking a balance between justice for victims and a lasting peace.
  • After an OAS-sponsored conference in El Salvador to assess the tenuous ceasefire between the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18, the two largest street gangs in the country have released a joint statement  declaring their continued support for the agreement. InSight Crime notes that the impact of the ceasefire seems to be wearing off, as homicides are rising for the fourth straight month in the country.
  • Chilean retired General Juan Emilio Cheyre Espinoza, who stepped down from the country's electoral commission after admitting that he put a child of Dirty War victims up for adoption after his parents had been killed, is at the center of scandal once again. On Monday, a judge ordered an investigation into claims that Cheyre was responsible for the abduction and torture of three children in 1973.
  • The L.A. Times examines the case of a Mexican woman who, upon returning to her home town of Olinala, Guerrero after two decades in the U.S., became a leader of a community vigilante group created to free townspeople from criminal networks. She was arrested after her group ran afoul of local politicians, a case which illustrates the complicated relation that self-defense movements have with authorities in Mexico.
  • A Spanish judge has thrown out a lawsuit against Cuban security officials filed by relatives of deceased Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, who claimed that the Cuban government was responsible for his death. As the Miami Herald reports, the judge found that Spanish politician Angel Carromero had already accepted responsibility for the car crash that killed Paya, and that the crash was purely accidental.
  • The AP profiles a new Cuban government bid to attract foreign investment by lifting labor, customs and tax restrictions on commercial operators in its newly-refurbished Mariel port. The initiative is Cuba’s first experiment with special economic zones since the early 1990s.
  • The UN Office of Drugs and Crime has released its latest estimates on illicit coca cultivation in Peru. While overall coca cultivation has fallen to roughly 241 square miles -- a 3.4 percent drop from 2011 -- the figure means that Peru has officially displaced Colombia as the leading producer of coca in the world.