Possibly Chilly Receptions Expected for Kerry in Brazil, Colombia

By Riechmann, Deb | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), August 12, 2013 | Go to article overview

Possibly Chilly Receptions Expected for Kerry in Brazil, Colombia


Riechmann, Deb, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


WASHINGTON - Secretary of State John Kerry's trip to Colombia and Brazil this week builds on efforts to deepen relations with Latin America, but he can expect a curt reception from the two U.S. allies after reports that an American spy program widely targeted data in emails and telephone calls across the region.

On Kerry's first visit to South America as the Obama administration's chief diplomat, the disclosures by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden could chill talks on trade and energy, and even discussions about the Oct. 23 state dinner that President Obama is hosting for Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff.

"I don't think this is going to be a warm 'abrazo,'" said Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue, using the Spanish word for "hug." "I think it will be businesslike."

Kerry was scheduled to arrive early today 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 force diminished in strength thanks in considerable measure to U.S. military and intelligence support.

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.

Colombia is one of the United States' closest allies in the region, but the reports about the spying program have rankled Colombian officials.

Brazil's O Globo newspaper reported last month that citizens of Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and other countries were among the targets of a massive NSA operation to secretly gather information about phone calls and Internet communications worldwide. The reports were based on information provided by Snowden.

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. …

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