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VIDEO: At U.N. General Assembly, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff Blasts U.S. Spying Operations

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During a speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff accused the United States of violating human rights and international law by spying on Brazilian companies, politicians and citizens.

"Tampering in such a manner in the lives and affairs of other countries is a breach of international law, and, as such, it is an affront to the principles that should otherwise govern relations among countries, especially among friendly nations," says Rousseff, who recently cancelled an upcoming trip to the United States over revelations of spying by the National Security Agency.

U.N. PRESIDENT JOHN WILLIAM ASHE: The assembly will now hear an address by Her Excellency Dilma Rousseff, president of the Federated Republic of Brazil. I request protocol to escort Her Excellency.

PRESIDENT DILMA ROUSSEFF: [translated] Mr. President, I wish to bring to the attention of attending delegations an issue which I view as being utterly important and serious. Recently disclosed information on the activities carried out by a global network of electronic spying has brought about anger and repudiation in vast sectors of public opinion worldwide. In Brazil, the situation was even more serious, since we, Brazil, feature as a target of such an intrusion. Citizens’ personal data and information have been indiscriminately targeted and intercepted. Business information, oftentimes of high economic and even strategic value, have been the target of spying activity. Also, communications by Brazilian diplomatic representation offices, including the permanent mission of Brazil with the United Nations and even the very presidency of Republic of Brazil, were subject to interception of communications. Meddling in such a manner in the life and affairs of other countries is a breach of international law, and, as such, it is an affrontment to the principles that should otherwise govern relations among countries, especially among friendly nations.

A country’s sovereignty can never affirm itself to the detriment of another country’s sovereignty. The right to security of a country’s citizens can never be ensured by violating the fundamental human and civil rights of another country’s citizens—even worse, when private-sector companies uphold this type of spying activity. The argument that illegal interception of information and data is allegedly intended to protect nations against terrorism is untenable. Mr. President, Brazil knows how to protect itself. Brazil, Mr. President, repudiates. Brazil tackles and does not provide shelter to terrorist groups.

We are a democratic country, surrounded by democratic, peaceful countries that respect international law. We have been living in peace with our neighbors for more than 140 years. Like so many other Latin Americans, I myself fought on a firsthand basis against arbitrary behavior and censorship, and I could therefore not possibly fail to uncompromisingly defend individuals’ rights to privacy and my country’s sovereignty. Without the right to privacy, there is no real freedom of speech or freedom of opinion, and therefore, there is no actual democracy. Without respect to sovereignty, there is no base for proper relations among nations. What we have before us, Mr. President, is a serious case of violation of human rights and civil liberties, a case of invasion and capture of confidential, secret information pertaining to business activities, and, above all, a case of disrespect to the national sovereignty of my country.

We have let the U.S. government know about our protest by demanding explanations, apologies and guarantees that such acts or procedures will never be repeated again. Friendly governments and societies that seek to consolidate a truly strategic partnership, such as is our case, cannot possibly allow recurring and illegal actions to go on as if they were normal, ordinary practice. Such actions are totally unacceptable.

Mr. President, Brazil will further double its efforts to equip itself with legislation, technologies and the mechanisms that will protect us properly against illegal interception of communications and data. My administration will so everything within its reach and powers to defend the human rights of all Brazilians and to protect the human rights of all citizens in the world while protecting the fruits of the ingenious efforts of Brazilian workers and corporations.

The problem, however, goes beyond the bilateral relations of two countries. It affects the international community itself and, as such, requires an answer from it. Information and communications or telecommunications technologies cannot become a new battlefield among states. The time has come for us to foster the conditions required to prevent that the cyberspace becomes or be instrumentally manipulated as a weapon of war by means of spying activities, sabotage and attacks against the systems and infrastructures owned by third-party countries.

The United Nations organization should form a leadership role in an effort to properly regulate the behavior of states regarding these technologies and also consider the importance of the Internet and social networks as part of our efforts to build democracy worldwide. For that reason, Mr. President, Brazil will put forth proposals aimed at establishing a multilateral civil framework for Internet governance and use, as well as measures to ensure effective protection of the data and information trafficking through the Internet.

We must establish multilateral mechanisms for the World Wide Web, mechanisms that are capable of ensuring materialization of principles such as, for example, number one, freedom of speech, individuals’ privacy and respect to human rights; principle number two, democratic governance, multilateral, democratic and open governance exercised with a sense of transparency while encouraging collective creation and a broad-ranging participation of society, governments and the private sector. The third is the principle of universality that ensures social and human development, as well as the construction of inclusive, nondiscriminatory societies. Fourth is the principle of cultural diversity without any imposition of beliefs, customs or values. Principle number five, that of network neutrality by observing only technical and ethical criteria, thus making unacceptable any restriction due to political, commercial, religious reasons or any other reason. Full utilization of the Internet’s potential, therefore, involves responsible regulation that will at the same time guarantee freedom of speech, security and respect to human rights.


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