BRASILIA, Brazil — Disclosures alleging that the United States has collected data on billions of telephone and email conversations in Latin America's biggest country will not affect Brazil-U.S. relations, the head of Brazil's joint congressional committee on intelligence said Wednesday.
Congressman Nelson Pellegrino told foreign correspondents in Brasilia that despite Brazil's strong repudiation of the U.S. information gathering activities in Brazil "the good relations we have with the United States will not be interrupted."
"We have sent Washington a clear message that we are interested in maintaining good relations, but that we will not accept these kinds of practices," he said. "We cannot accept that a country spies another, on its citizens, its companies and its authorities."
He said President Dilma Rousseff's state visit to Washington October was still on and that it would not be affected by the recent disclosures.
Meanwhile Wednesday, Defense Minister Celso Amorim acknowledged that the country invests little in cyber-security, with just $22 million earmarked in the 2013 budget. Still, he insisted that no amount of money can create a totally secure system.
"No country has the capacity to establish absolute protection" of its communication networks, Amorim told the Senate's foreign relations committee. "Even in an ideal situation, there would not be a shield that could completely protect us."
The O Globo newspaper reported last week that information released by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden showed Brazil is the top target in Latin America for the NSA's massive intelligence-gathering effort aimed at monitoring communications around the world.
Snowden's disclosures indicate that the NSA widely collects phone and Internet "metadata" – logs of message times, addresses and other information rather than the content of the messages. The documents have indicated that the NSA has been collecting the phone records of millions of U.S. phone customers, and has gathered data on phone and Internet usage outside the U.S., including those people who use any of nine U.S.-based internet providers such as Google.
Earlier, O Globo reported that in Brazil, the NSA collected data through an association between U.S. and Brazilian telecommunications companies. It said it could not verify which Brazilian companies were involved or if they were even aware their links were being used to collect the data.
The Brazilian government is investigating the disclosures and the alleged links with telecommunications firms with a Brazil presence.
Congress has asked U.S. Ambassador Thomas Shannon for explanations.
Rousseff said any such activity infringed upon the nation's sovereignty, and that Brazil would take the issue up at the United Nations.
In Mexico, President Enrique Pena Nieto also discounted that the disclosures would hurt relations with Washington.
"I believe that at this time there isn't anything altering the relationship of respect and cordiality we have with the U.S. government, and where we are, as you know, trying to set goals within the relationship that can generate benefits and development for both countries," Pena Nieto told reporters.