BOGOTA – Colombian officials will raise the issue of US electronic surveillance on Monday during a visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the American ambassador said.
A team of Colombian officials visited Washington recently to discuss the snooping, which came to light when fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden revealed details of huge US telephone and Internet surveillance programs.
Kerry arrived in Bogota Monday for his first tour of Latin America as America’s top diplomat. He will head to Brazil, where the spy programs have also raised eyebrows, on Tuesday.
In the case of Colombia, the secret US Internet capability allowed Washington to map movements of the leftist rebel army FARC, the Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported last month.
The report said this took place from 2008 until early this year.
Elsewhere in Latin America, the Americans also picked up data on oil and military spending in Venezuela and on energy and drug trafficking in Mexico, according to the daily.
The US ambassador to Colombia, Michael McKinley, said on the radio station RCN that the Colombian chapter of the surveillance will be discussed “in a constructive way.”
He said the United States was perfectly willing to discuss the surveillance with Colombia or any other ally.
“It is not an issue we are running away from,” the ambassador said.
After the report in O Globo last month, Colombia complained that the surveillance violated its people’s right to privacy and international telecoms accords and said it would seek an explanation from the United States.
Colombia is the United States’ closest ally in South America.
In meetings with President Juan Manuel Santos, Kerry will also discuss security issues, government peace talks with the FARC and a free trade accord in effect now between the United States and Colombia, McKinley said.
Kerry began his trip to Bogota by meeting officials overseeing the peace talks. He was also to tour a sports facility for police and soldiers injured by land mines and watch them play rugby and volleyball in wheelchairs.