Canada responds to allegations of spying on Brazil

by | Oct 15, 2013 | News

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Thomas Rohner and Raúl A. Pinto

Allegations of Canada spying on Brazil have Toronto’s Brazilian community worried, according to one prominent member.

“It’s still too early to react, but I’ve heard some Brazilians in the community saying they are worried,” Giselle Wanderoscki, editor-in-chief of Brazil News, a Brazilian community newspaper in Toronto, told Humber News. “They want to know what Canada is doing, but they’re scared of a public backlash.”

Allegations emerged on Oct. 6 that a federal Canadian intelligence agency was mapping the Brazilian Mining and Energy Ministry’s communications. The allegations against Communications Security Establishment Canada, were raised by a Brazilian news program, collaborating with The Guardian’s Glen Greenwald. The allegations stem from documents leaked by former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden.

Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff quickly condemned the spying.

“This is unacceptable between countries that are supposed to be partners,” Rousseff tweeted after hearing of the allegations. “We repudiate this cyberwarfare.”

Canada’s ambassador to Brazil was summoned by Brazil’s minister of external relations on Oct. 7 to “convey the indignation of the Brazilian government and request explanations”, a press release from the Brazilian government said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been quoted in various news reports as being “very concerned” over the allegations and is “reaching out” to Brazilian leaders.

Latin American studies professor Stephen Henighan of Guelph University told Humber News the move is an effort to boost Rousseff’s popularity in Brazil.

“The previous government saw enormous changes and successes,” Henighan said. “That creates huge expectations, and the current president hasn’t been able to fill those to the same extent.”

Henighan pointed out that a federal election is due in Brazil next year and that Rouseff’s approval rating has been low recently.

“There is a specific local context that is fueling this reaction, and part of it is what’s going to happen in the next election.”

Henighan also said relations between Canada and Brazil are fragile and have only made strides forward in the past few years.

“The economic relationship is very large. The problem I think is that it hasn’t been cemented by any sort of personal relationship by leaders, or by any cultural identification…this incident could endanger the progress made in the last four or five years.”

Wanderoscki agreed and said the progress made in the past few years has been important to the Brazilian community.

“We live here and we like the country and the people and how democracy works here; but Brazil is our country too, and Canada should respect that.”