Amid allegations that the United States spied on the leaders of Latin America’s two largest nations, President Obama said Friday that he discussed the matter with Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff and Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto at this week’s G-20 summit.
Obama defended the information-gathering mission of the U.S. intelligence agency, and acknowledged, “We are bigger [and] we have bigger capabilities” than other nations.
“Because technology is growing so rapidly, it is important for us to step back and say just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should,” Obama added.
The governments of Brazil and Mexico both issued tough statements against the Obama administration after the news broke on Sunday via the documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Earlier this summer, the documents allegedly revealed wider U.S. spying on civilians throughout Latin America. Reports recently surfaced claiming the U.S. bugged the video surveillance system at the United Nations headquarters.
The Mexican Foreign Ministry issued a statement condemning “any works of espionage against Mexican citizens in violation of international law.” The Brazilian Foreign Ministry on Monday said the U.S.’s actions were a “violation of Brazilian sovereignty” and demanded a formal response by the end of the week. Rousseff is scheduled to visit the White House for a formal state dinner – the only one offered by President Obama this year.
“I take these allegations very seriously,” Obama said Friday of his conversations with Rousseff and Peña Nieto. “I understand their concerns and the concerns of their people, and we will work with their teams to resolve what is a source of tension.”