Brazil’s President Accuses U.S. of Serious Human-Rights Violations

President Rousseff bashed NSA data-collection programs at the opening of the U.N. General Assembly, saying that “without the right to privacy, there is no real freedom of speech.”

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff speaks during a ceremony in Brasilia, Brazil, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013. 
National Journal
Add to Briefcase
Matt Berman
Sept. 24, 2013, 6:35 a.m.

In the first speech of the 68th ses­sion of the United Na­tions Gen­er­al As­sembly, Brazili­an Pres­id­ent Dilma Rousseff im­me­di­ately dug in­to the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion and the U.S. Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency’s data-col­lec­tion pro­grams — in­clud­ing spy­ing with­in her own coun­try, as re­vealed in the Snowden leaks. Re­fer­ring to the pro­grams through a trans­lat­or as a “glob­al net­work of glob­al spy­ing,” Rousseff said that the ar­gu­ments in fa­vor of the col­lec­tion are “un­ten­able” and that “Brazil knows how to pro­tect it­self.”

“What we have be­fore us is a ser­i­ous case of the vi­ol­a­tions of hu­man rights and civil liber­ties,” she said. “We are a demo­crat­ic coun­try, sur­roun­ded by demo­crat­ic peace­ful coun­tries that re­spect in­ter­na­tion­al law.” The drag­net, ac­cord­ing to Rousseff, is “a case of dis­respect to the na­tion­al sov­er­eignty of my coun­try.”

This isn’t just verbal bluster from Brazil’s pres­id­ent. The rev­el­a­tions about tar­geted spy­ing on Brazil are ab­so­lutely ser­i­ous. They re­portedly in­clude the col­lec­tion of com­mu­nic­a­tions from Rousseff her­self. Last week, Rousseff in­def­in­itely post­poned a state vis­it to the United States over spy­ing con­cerns. And at the U.N. on Tues­day, Rousseff im­plied that U.S. freedoms aren’t all they’re cut out to be, say­ing that “without the right to pri­vacy, there is no real free­dom of speech.”

Rousseff ad­ded that her coun­try will “double ef­forts” to pro­tect it­self from the in­ter­cep­tion of its data, and she called for a mul­ti­lat­er­al frame­work for In­ter­net gov­ernance.

Strong state­ments against NSA data-col­lec­tion pro­grams and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion aren’t just about po­s­i­tion­ing Brazil on a glob­al stage. In the wake of mass protests in Brazil this sum­mer over a strug­gling eco­nomy, gov­ern­ment cor­rup­tion, and the World Cup, these ag­gress­ive state­ments can also help build-up Rousseff’s pres­id­ency at home. That’s es­pe­cially the case in the lead-up to next year’s elec­tions.

And, so far, Rousseff’s role as Amer­ica’s spy­ing foil seem to be work­ing do­mest­ic­ally. In Ju­ly, Rousseff’s pop­ular­ity rate was 49 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to Brazil’s MDA Con­sultores. By early Septem­ber, after Rousseff began speak­ing out against NSA data col­lec­tion, that rate had ris­en to 58 per­cent. Tak­ing a strong stance against the U.S. alone isn’t go­ing to help float Rousseff to reelec­tion. But us­ing NSA data col­lec­tion as a way to be a vo­cal glob­al ad­voc­ate for her coun­try can’t hurt.


Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.