UNITED NATIONS — Foreign ministers from the South American trade bloc Mercosur expressed their indignation at alleged U.S. spying in the region and throughout the world to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday.
Venezuela's Foreign Minister Elias Jaua, whose country holds the rotating presidency of Mercosur, told reporters after the ministerial delegation met the U.N. chief that the alleged spying revealed by NSA leaker Edward Snowden violates international law and has serious implications for the political stability of countries "and the mutual confidence that the international community needs."
Regional leaders were outraged last month week by reports that a U.S. spy program is widely targeting data in emails and telephone calls across Latin America.
"We are convinced that ... this practice absolutely violates international laws and the sovereignty and independence of nations, and more than that, it violates the fundamental human rights of the citizens of our countries, and of all the countries of the world," Jaua said.
He said the ministers defended the right of any country to offer asylum and expressed serious concern at the pressure against Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua after they offered asylum to Snowden. Washington has put pressure on the region's leaders to block Snowden from finding refuge in Latin America and he has been granted temporary asylum in Russia for a year.
The ministers discussed with Ban the statement from their presidents adopted on July 12 at the end of a summit in Montevideo, Uruguay, which calls for U.N. members to propose ways to prevent spying and to pursue sanctions, presumably against the United States.
Jaua said the ministers expressed "our complaint, our concern, our indignation over the global espionage system that has been revealed by Mr. Snowden ... against citizens all over the world, against countries, against governments, against multilateral organizations, against public and private companies."
Jaua and Brazil's Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota both said secretary-general Ban shared their concerns.
"He reacted in a way that shows a sensitivity to the message that we conveyed from our heads of state," Patriota said.
The Mercosur presidential statement calls on delegations from the 193 U.N. member states attending next month's ministerial meeting of the General Assembly "to jointly present a formal proposal" on "prevention and sanction mechanisms." It also asks Argentina, a Mercosur member serving a two-year term on the U.N. Security Council, to submit the matter to the council for its consideration.
Erin Pelton, spokeswoman for the U.S. Mission to the U.N., declined to comment.
Last month, Venezuela said it was calling off efforts to restore normal relations with the U.S. after Samantha Power, the new U.S. U.N. ambassador, said at her Senate confirmation hearing that the South American country was guilty of a "crackdown on civil society."
The Security Council is the only U.N. body that can impose legally binding sanctions and the United States, as a permanent member, can veto any resolution. So there is no possibility of U.N. sanctions against the United States.
Brazil's Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota, asked what was being done to pursue actions to prevent spying and pursue sanctions, said: "We are still coordinating on the next steps."
He also said state sovereignty, human rights, the violation of diplomatic missions and the rights of heads of state were infringed when some European nations refused to allow Bolivian President Evo Morales to fly through their airspace on his way home from Moscow last month amid suspicions that Snowden was on board.