Sao Paulo: Whistle-blower website WikiLeaks has published the names of more than 29 members of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s administration who were spied on by the US National Security Agency at the start of her first term in office, which began in January 2011.
The release of the list of phone numbers on Saturday linked to high-level Brazilian officials comes just days after Rousseff, who was reelected to a second term late last year, and US counterpart Barack Obama met in Washington to end bilateral tensions stemming from previous revelations about NSA eavesdropping on Brasilia.
The June 30 meeting initially been scheduled for October 2013, but Brazil canceled it after former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden released documents showing that the NSA intercepted Rousseff’s personal communications.
NSA also targeted Brazilian government ministries and the country’s state-owned oil company, Petrobras, those previously released documents showed.
The list disclosed on Saturday by WikiLeaks said that in addition to Rousseff the NSA also spied on the communications of 29 other members of her administration, including her former chief of staff, Antonio Palocci, and erstwhile foreign minister, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado.
The document also said that members of Rousseff’s economic team and Brazil’s ambassadors to Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium and the US were targets of the wiretapping.
“Our publication today shows the US has a long way to go to prove its dragnet surveillance on ‘friendly’ governments is over,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in a statement.
“The US has not just (been) targeting President Rousseff but the key figures she talks to every day.”
“If President Rousseff wants to see more US investment in Brazil on the back of her recent trip as she claims, how can she assure Brazilian companies that their US counterparts will not have an advantage provided by this surveillance?” Assange asked rhetorically.
Assange has been holed up at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning on allegations of sexual misconduct.
Assange, who denies the sexual-misconduct accusations, fears that once he is in Swedish custody, US prosecutors would indict him for the release of secret documents and Washington would pressure Stockholm into handing him over.
New Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro issued an executive order Wednesday making the Agriculture Ministry responsible for decisions concerning lands claimed by indigenous peoples, in a victory for agribusiness that will likely enrage environmentalists.
The temporary decree, which will expire unless it is ratified within 120 days by Congress, strips power over land claim decisions from indigenous affairs agency FUNAI.
It says the Agriculture Ministry will now be responsible for “identification, delimitation, demarcation and registration of lands traditionally occupied by indigenous people.”
The move stoked concern among environmentalists and rights groups that the far-right president, who took office Tuesday, will open up the vast Amazon rainforest and other ecologically sensitive areas of Brazil to greater commercial exploitation.
The executive order also moves the Brazilian Forestry Service, which promotes the sustainable use of forests and is linked to the Environment Ministry, under Agriculture Ministry control.
Additionally, the decree states that the Agriculture Ministry will be in charge of the management of public forests.
Bolsonaro, who enjoys strong support from Brazil’s powerful agribusiness sector, said during his campaign he was considering such a move, arguing that protected lands should be opened to commercial activities.
Brazil’s 900,000 indigenous people make up less than 1 percent of the population, but live on lands that stretch for 106.7 million hectares (264 million acres), or 12.5 percent of the national territory.
“Less than a million people live in these isolated places in Brazil, where they are exploited and manipulated by NGOs,” Bolsonaro tweeted, referring to non-profit groups. “Let us together integrate these citizens and value all Brazilians.”
Critics say Bolsonaro’s plan to open indigenous reservations to commercial activity will destroy native cultures and languages by integrating the tribes into Brazilian society.
Environmentalists say the native peoples are the last custodians of the Amazon, which is the world’s largest rainforest and is vital for climate stability.
Adding to the gloom for NGOs, Bolsonaro also signed an executive order to give his government potentially far-reaching and restrictive powers over non-governmental organizations working in Brazil.
The temporary decree mandates that the office of the Government Secretary, Carlos Alberto Dos Santos Cruz, “supervise, coordinate, monitor and accompany the activities and actions of international organizations and non-governmental organizations in the national territory.”
Good news for farm lobby
After she was sworn in on Wednesday, new Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias defended the farm sector from accusations it has grown at the expense of the environment, adding that the strength of Brazil’s farmers had generated “unfounded accusations” from unnamed international groups.
Dias used to be the head of the farm caucus in Brazil’s Congress, which has long pushed for an end to land measures that it argues hold back the agricultural sector.
“Brazil is a country with extremely advanced environmental legislation and is more than able to preserve its native forests,” Dias said. “Our country is a model to be followed, never a transgressor to be punished.”
In comments to reporters after her speech, she said that decisions over land rights disputes were a new responsibility for the Agriculture Ministry. However, she indicated that in practice, the demarcation of land limits would fall to a council of ministries, without giving further details.
Bartolomeu Braz, the president of the national chapter of Aprosoja, a major grain growers association, cheered Wednesday’s move to transfer indigenous land demarcation to the Agriculture Ministry.
“The new rules will be interesting to the farmers and the Indians, some of whom are already producing soybeans. The Indians want to be productive too,” he added.
Three-time presidential candidate and former Environment Minister Marina Silva, who was beaten by Bolsonaro in October’s election, reacted with horror to the move.
“Bolsonaro has begun his government in the worst possible way,” she wrote on Twitter.
Dinamã Tuxá, a member of Brazil’s Association of Indigenous Peoples, said many isolated communities viewed Bolsonaro’s administration with fear.
“We are very afraid because Bolsonaro is attacking indigenous policies, rolling back environmental protections, authorizing the invasion of indigenous territories and endorsing violence against indigenous peoples,” said Tuxá.
Under the new plan, the indigenous affairs agency FUNAI will be moved into a new ministry for family, women and human rights.
A former army captain and longtime member of Congress, Bolsonaro said at his inauguration on Tuesday that he had freed the country from “socialism and political correctness.”