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South American leaders condemn US global spying

2013757114932734_20The South American trade bloc Mercosur has harshly criticized the United States’ global surveillance programs.

“We have condemned the global spying network that the US government developed which has included snooping on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff,” Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said on Wednesday after meeting with top diplomats from Mercosur member countries in the capital Caracas.

“We agreed on condemning worldwide spying by the United States and we discussed what measures would be best taken by governments and societies as a whole,” Jaua added.

Mercosur is an economic union and political agreement between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela founded in 1991. Its purpose is to promote free trade and the fluid movement of goods, people, and currency. Bolivia became an accessing member in December 2012.

The bloc’s combined market encompasses more than 250 million people and accounts for more than three-quarters of the economic activity on the continent, or a combined GDP of $1.1 trillion.

Their statement came after reports that the US was snooping Rousseff’s communications. The foreign ministers also discussed how to respond to America’s massive espionage operations.

The US government has come under fire from the international community over revelations that show it has been spying on many countries including its close allies.

Last week, The Guardian reported that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had monitored the telephone conversations of 35 world leaders.

“A US official provided NSA with 200 phone numbers to 35 world leaders… Despite the fact that the majority is probably available via open source, the PCs [intelligence production centers] have noted 43 previously unknown phone numbers. These numbers plus several others have been tasked,” according to a classified document provided by US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

“These numbers have provided lead information to other numbers that have subsequently been tasked,” it added.

Snowden, a former CIA employee, leaked two top secret US government spying programs under which the 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.

The NSA scandal took even broader dimensions when Snowden revealed information about its espionage activities targeting friendly countries.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, admitted in July that Snowden’s exposés have seriously damaged US ties with other countries. “There has been damage. I don’t think we actually have been able to determine the depth of that damage.”

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