Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff used her lead-off speech at the annual United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday to blast the United States for operating a worldwide spying network that she said violates the sovereignty of other countries and the civil liberties of their citizens.
Rousseff had already signaled her nation's outrage over reports of National Security Agency data interceptions in Brazil by canceling a summit and state dinner with President Obama that had been set for late October.
"What we have before us is a serious case of violation of human rights and civil liberties," Rousseff told the assembly immediately after opening pleasantries.
She described arguments that the technological surveillance of individuals, businesses and diplomatic missions is necessary in the global fight against terrorism as "untenable" and an affront to the sovereignty of nations.
"Brazil can protect itself," Rousseff declared. "Brazil doesn’t provide shelter to terrorist groups."
Rousseff never mentioned Obama or the NSA by name but said her nation's dismay over "this case of disrespect" had been communicated to Washington, along with its insistence that Brazil "cannot possibly allow recurring and illegal actions to go on as if normal practice."
Since July, Brazilian news organization Globo has published three reports based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, which alleged that the United States had spied on Brazilian citizens, Rousseff herself, as well as important state-run oil company, Petrobras.
Rousseff has strongly denounced the alleged eavesdropping and asked Obama for a public apology and concrete actions to curb it.
The decision to cancel the Washington trip, a rare diplomatic snub of the United States, was well received in many parts of Brazil, especially in the base of her left-of-center Workers Party, many of whose members have memories of a U.S.-backed military dictatorship that spied on dissidents.
Staff writer Williams reported from Los Angeles and special correspondent Bevins from Sao Paulo.