The foreign ministers of the five MERCOSUR member countries came to the United Nations on Monday, August 5 to issue an important warning to the international community. MERCOSUR is the Southern Common Market made up of the countries of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela.
The five Ministers had a meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The purpose of the meeting was to explain to the Secretary General, their countries’ concern over what they referred to as the “acts of espionage carried out by intelligence agencies of the United States of America which affect all countries in the region.”
The Ministers presented Ban Ki Moon with a resolution on this issue passed at the meeting of MERCOSUR on July 12, 2013.(1) After they met with Ban Ki-moon, the five Foreign Ministers held a press conference.
Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Elías Jaua made a presentation to journalists in Spanish. Then in response to requests from journalists for an English summary of the presentation, Brazil’s Foreign Minister, Antonio Patriota, presented a summary statement in English.
He referred to the MERCOSUR resolution that condemns, “the interception of telecommunications and the acts of espionage carried out in our countries, which constitute a violation of the human rights, the right to privacy and the right to information for our citizens, and which also constitute unacceptable behavior that violates our sovereignty and is detrimental to the normal conduct of relations among nations.”
The MERCOSUR Ministers reported that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon shared their concerns.
Just a few hours later, the newly appointed US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, arrived at the UN to present her credentials to Ban Ki-moon. In her remarks to the press, she made no mention of the issue the MERCOSUR Foreign Ministers had just expressed their concern about at the UN both to the Secretary General and at a press conference.
Nor did the newly appointed US Ambassador take any questions from journalists.
Then at around 5 pm, the President of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez had a meeting with Secretary General Ban Ki moon. Among the issues she raised, was the importance of the MERCOSUR resolution.
The next day, August 6, the Argentine President chaired a Security Council debate on the role of regional organizations in the Security Council’s responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Some of the delegations participating in the debate included in their presentations discussion of the violation of principles of the UN Charter and of international law represented by the widespread US government surveillance activities.
For example, the Brazilian Foreign Minister explained that the US actions in this area represent “a serious issue, with a profound impact on the international order.” Minister Patriota said that, “Brazil has been coordinating with countries that share similar concerns to uphold an international order that is respectful of the sovereignty of States and of human rights.”
The Foreign Minister from Ecuador, Ricardo Patino, in his statement to the Security Council, elaborated on the issues raised by Brazil. He compared the situation of whistleblower Edward Snowden to that “akin to a cold war spy novel.” Minister Patino pointed out that the US government had elevated what it claimed to be the national security interest of the US above all universal moral values and norms of international law.
Yet it has been revealed, he observed, that the subject of the widespread surveillance has not been restricted to alleged criminal activity, but has also been related to the US gaining an advantage in trade and other areas.
Such actions, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister explained, brought the world closer than ever to an Orwellian nightmare.
Similarly, the right of a country to determine a request for asylum is a right enshrined in international law. It is a right that is conferred to protect a victim from political prosecution. Only the country considering the request is in the position to judge the credibility of that request. The US, instead of respecting this right, has revived the debate on whether there is such a right enshrined in international law, Minister Patino noted.
The Ecuador Minister condemned the danger to the Bolivian President represented by the US encouraging several countries to deny his plane the right to fly in their air space or to land. The Ecuador government offered its support for the Bolivian request that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights conduct an exhaustive investigation into the incident.
Also Ecuador called for the global surveillance by the US to cease and for the need to provide protection to Edward Snowden, a protection that Navi Pillay the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called for in her statement on the issue.(2)
In the presentation that the Venezuelan Foreign Minister made to the Security Council, he spoke not only in his capacity as the Foreign Minister of Venezuela, but also as Pro-Tempore President of MERCOSUR. He elaborated on three areas of concern about the US Government’s espionage activities that had been discussed during the meeting the previous day with the Secretary General.
These areas concerned the condemnation of the incident of several European nations not permitting overflight or permission to land to the plane carrying the Bolivian President, the US government’s contesting the sovereign right of other nations to grant political asylum to Edward Snowden, and the need to act on the serious violations of sovereignty represented by the widespread surveillance activities by the US.
“Given the seriousness of these reports of computer espionage on a global scale,” Foreign Minister Elías Jaua said, “the United Nations must initiate a broad multilateral discussion that would make it possible to design agreements to safeguard the sovereignty and security of States in the light of such illegal practices.
MERCOSUR,” he explained, “has begun action to promote a discussion on this matter so that we can open an appropriate investigation within the United Nations and punish and condemn this violation of international law.”
Later at a press conference held at the Brazilian Mission to the UN, the Brazilian Foreign Minister elaborated on the importance of the five Foreign Ministers from MERCOSUR coming to the UN to present the MERCOSUR resolution to the Secretary General. Minister Patriota explained that the Ministers brought the issue of US espionage to the attention of the UN Secretary General as a way to bring this issue to the attention of the world.
The MERCOSUR resolution had mandated that the foreign ministers would promote their “’joint efforts’ to inform the Secretary General of the United Nations of these incidents and request prevention and sanction mechanisms on the issue at the multilateral level.”
Foreign Minister Patriota also noted that the Argentine President had presented the MERCOSUR resolution to the UN Security Council, another of the steps mandated by the MERCOSUR resolution.
In response to a question about what other steps would be taken, he listed several possible activities in both the General Assembly and in some of the Committees that could be taken when the UN General Assembly convenes for its Fall 2013 session.
The MERCOSUR resolution also stated that the member nations of MERCOSUR would, “Demand that those responsible immediately cease these activities and provide an explanation of the motives for and consequences of such activities.”
At the end of the Security Council meeting on Tuesday, a member of the US Mission to the UN, the US Alternate Representative to the UN, Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, offered a response to the criticism of the US for its spying on people and nations around the world. He said that, “All governments do things that are secret. It is a fact of modern governing and a necessity in light of the threats all our citizens face.”
DeLaurentis focused on blaming Snowden for revealing this US government activity. Such a focus is recognized by many in the US and around the world, however, as but an attempt by the US government to divert attention from the illegal nature of the activity itself. DeLaurentis proposed that there is the need for what he referred to as a “fair discussion” on “the appropriate balance between privacy and security.”
Explaining why MERCOSUR felt it important to send five foreign ministers to present its resolution to the UN Secretary General, Minister Patriota said that it was to issue an “alert” sent through the UN Secretary General to the international community about the importance of the problem represented by the US government’s widespread intercepting of telecommunications and other acts of espionage.
The MERCOSUR resolution outlines several further steps that the MERCOSUR member nations plan to take.
Despite the fact that there has been little press coverage of the August 5 visit of the MERCOSUR Foreign Ministers to the UN to meet with the Secretary General, with the exception of the Spanish speaking media, the visit served as an important initiative. It served as a call on people around the world to challenge the US Government’s violations of human rights, due process and other principles of international law and national laws.
Ms. Ronda Hauben is one of the frequent contributors for The 4th Media.
(1)A copy of this resolution has been issued as a “Note Verbale dated 22 July 2013”, UN Document A/67/946, issued 29 July 2013
(2)See statement by Pillay on this blog. The url is