Spying by the US National Security Agency has been rampant across Latin America in recent years, according to the latest revelations made possible by documents released by Edward Snowden, with the powerful agency looking not only into military affairs but also into "trade secrets" of its southern neighbors.
In a new expose in the Brazilian newspaper Jornal O Globo, journalists Glenn Greenwald, Robert Kaz, and Jose Casado show that after Brazil and Mexico, Colombia was the country most watched by the NSA.
As it did domestically and across Europe, the US agency employed the now familiar "Prism," "Boundless Informant," and other surveillance programs across the continent in order to look at the internet and telephone communications of people in Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Paraguay, Chile, Peru and El Salvador.
One aspect that stands out in the documents is that, according to them, the United States does not seem to be interested only in military affairs but also in trade secrets - "oil" in Venezuela and "energy" in Mexico, according to a listing produced NSA in the first half of this year [...].
Colombia was the second priority target in Latin America over the past five years - after Brazil and Mexico - in spying activity of the National Security Agency. Agency documents, to which O GLOBO had access, show a collection of information in Colombia expressive and constantly in flux, although variable, in the period between 2008 and the first quarter of this year until March.
The revelations about spying in Latin America come as the NSA whistleblower responsible for leaking the documents to the press, Edward Snowden, continues his attempts to gain political asylum. Still stranded in the transit area of a Moscow airport, it appears that the 30-year-old former intelligence contractor's best hope for refuge is now in one of these Latin American countries, with Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua now offering him the possibility of protection.
According to the documents released by O Globo, Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's former president who died earlier this year, was a cause for the US' close monitoring of that country. It is now Chavez's successor, Nicholas Maduro, who has stepped forward with the boldest offer for Snowden's asylum bid.
"We have received the asylum request letter,” Maduro confirmed on Monday from Caracas.
“We told this young man, ‘you are being persecuted by the [US] empire, come here’," he said. “He will have to decide when he flies, if he finally wants to fly here.”
For its part, Brazil has already expressed concern and anger over revelations that the NSA had turned its digital surveillance powers against its digital infrastructure and it seems likely that as other nations learn of the scope of the programs, that ire will spread across the continent.