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Brazil government officials spied on by US: Wikileaks

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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.

Julian Assange“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.

(IANS/EFE)

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Brazillians at a Disadvantage Due To Loss Of Cuban Doctors

The former health minister said the doctors were not only highly qualified, but specialists in rural medicine, something that Brazil's health system badly lacks.

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Brazil, cuban doctors
Foreign physicians — mainly Cuban — arrive at the University of Brasilia for a meeting with the Brazilian Health Minister, in Brasilia on Aug. 26, 2013. The Brazilian government hired thousands of foreign doctors due to the lack of medical professionals. VOA

Millions of Brazilians may be left without access to doctors due to the end of a program that brought Cuban physicians to rural and dangerous areas in Brazil, the former health minister who helped create the initiative said Thursday.

The Cuban government on Wednesday said it would end the program after Brazilian President-elect Jair Bolsonaro said it could only continue if several conditions were met

Bolsonaro, a former army captain, campaigned in part on promises to take a hard line against left-leaning governments. As a congressman, the far-right leader often complained about the Cuban doctors’ program and tried to end it.

In a phone interview, former Health Minister Alexandre Padilha said the decision to pull out would leave millions of Brazilians without access to doctors.

Padilha said Cuban doctors were in 2,800 cities and towns — and they were the only doctors in 1,700 of those towns. Padilha said the initiative was launched in 2013 because local doctors could not be found for many positions.

Brazil, cuban doctors
Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro talks to the media, in Brasilia, Brazil. VOA

“This will have an immediate and terrible impact on the health care system,” said Padilha. “Cuban doctors are in the most vulnerable areas. They are in the Amazon, rural towns and in slums.”

Brazil, which includes the largest portion of the Amazon basin, is a vast country, a little bit larger than the continental United States. Many areas, particularly in the Amazon and historically poor Northeast region, are sparsely populated and lacking basic infrastructure.

After Cuba’s announcement Wednesday, Bolsonaro made a blistering critique of the program. Frequently referring to the Cuban government as a “dictatorship,” he said the program was “slave work” because the Cuban government keeps 70 percent of doctors’ salaries. He also said Brazil had no way to verify if the doctors were truly qualified.

Neither Bolsonaro nor the Cuban government has said when the estimated 8,500 Cuban doctors currently in Brazil would be leaving. Bolsonaro said Cuban doctors who asked for asylum would get it, though he stopped short of saying Brazil would provide that to any Cuban who asked.

Brazil, Cuban doctors
In this Aug. 30, 2013 file photo, Cuban doctors observe a dental procedure during a a training session at a health clinic in Brasilia, Brazil. VOA

Bolsonaro, who takes office Jan. 1, said he had signaled the program could only continue if doctors directly received their salaries from Brazil, were able to bring their families during their assignments and had their credentials verified.

“We have no proof that they are really doctors and able to take on these functions,” Bolsonaro said.

Padilha said the program, passed by Congress, already includes an evaluation of the doctors’ credentials and language training; Brazil’s national language is Portuguese and Cuba’s is Spanish.

Also Read: Spix’s Macaw Parrot from Brazil Is Now Extinct

The former health minister said the doctors were not only highly qualified, but specialists in rural medicine, something that Brazil’s health system badly lacks. He said the salary structure was something the Cuban government had worked out with more than 60 countries that participate in the program, and not something specific to Brazil.

“Bolsonaro doesn’t understand that a doctor doesn’t just practice medicine for money,” said Padilha. “Doctors who work in the poorest areas are not just thinking about money.” (VOA)