Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said Wednesday he would voice concerns about alleged US spying on his emails to US counterpart Barack Obama, warning it would be illegal if proven true.
The two leader will come face to face at the Group of 20 meeting in Russia on Thursday, four days after a US journalist reported that the National Security Agency snooped on the online activities of the Brazilian and Mexican leaders.
The new claims of spying in Latin America came two months after allegations of widespread US electronic espionage in the region that infuriated allies and rivals alike.
“If it is proven that an action took place, with the use of espionage means, this is clearly not permitted and it is outside the law,” Pena Nieto told reporters during a layover in Canada on his way to Saint Petersburg.
“There will surely be space at the G20 for some sort of meeting, either casual or informal, with the US president to make our position very clear,” he said, recalling that his government has asked the United States to investigate the matter.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is already in Russia for the G20 talks and she is scheduled to visit Obama in Washington next month, though Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo refused to say this week whether the trip would be affected.
The Mexican and Brazilian governments summoned the US ambassador to their respective countries this week to seek explanations about the latest espionage claims.
In Brasilia, Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo said the answers given by the United States since the first allegations emerged in July have been “false.”
“All the explanations given since this episode started have been false,” he told reporters late Tuesday, according to the state-run Agencia Brasil news agency.
US journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has access to secret documents leaked by fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, told Brazil’s Globo television this week that the agency spied on Rousseff’s Internet searches and Pena Nieto’s emails before his election last year.
In July, Greenwald co-wrote articles in Brazil’s O Globo newspaper saying the NSA spied on Latin American allies and rivals, using electronic espionage to monitor military purchases in Venezuela, energy and drug issues in Mexico and rebel movements in Colombia.
He also revealed that the US government had a joint NSA-CIA base in Brazil to gather data on emails and calls flowing through the country.
In his latest report, Greenwald said the NSA was trying to better understand Rousseff’s methods of communication and interlocutors using a program to access all Internet content she visited online.
Before Pena Nieto was elected in July 2012, the NSA intercepted some of his voice mails, which included messages in which he discussed the names of potential cabinet members before his July 2012 election victory.
“It’s more serious that what appeared at first sight,” Bernardo said.
But the Brazilian minister said a diplomatic solution was the way to resolve the issue.
“We are friends, we have 200-year-old diplomatic relations,” he said.
The row was at the center of a visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry in Brazil in August, but Brazilian officials said they were not satisfied by the explanations.
Brazilian Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo met with US Vice President Joe Biden last week and said the United States rejected an offer to negotiate a bilateral agreement on surveillance.
The Brazilian government now wants Internet governance and US espionage accusations to be discussed in international forums.