US President Barack Obama vowed on Friday to work with Brazil and Mexico to ease tensions over allegations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on the leaders of Latin America’s powerhouses.
Obama told Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in separate meetings at the G20 summit that he understood their reaction to reports that the NSA had snooped on their online activities.
“What I assured President Rousseff and President Pena Nieto is that I take these allegations very seriously, I understand their concerns, the concerns of the Mexican and Brazilian people. We will work with their teams to resolve what is the source of tensions,” he said.
Rousseff told reporters she had expressed her “personal indignation” over the claims and that the US leader pledged to provide answers by Wednesday.
The Brazilian leader, who is scheduled to visit Washington on Oct. 23, warned that “if the conditions are not met, I’m obviously not going.”
Rousseff had been all smiles earlier as Obama took his place next to her during a group photograph session at the summit in St Petersburg, even reciprocating when he leaned over to kiss her on the cheek.
For his part, Pena Nieto said the US leader assured him that he did not order a spying operation against him.
Obama, he said, gave his “personal commitment and desire to launch an investigation, and if actions took place outside the law, find who is responsible and impose corresponding sanctions.”
The US president sought to downplay the impact of the spying claims on relations with Latin America’s top two economies, saying tensions on the issue did not mean it overrides their wide-ranging common interests.
Outrage followed last Sunday’s report by US journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has access to documents leaked by fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, that the agency accessed communications of Rousseff and Pena Nieto.