During a visit to Russia, Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa continued his criticism of the United States’ National Security Agency, which is currently embroiled in a worldwide scandal over allegations that the agency spied on world leaders.
As the White House is considering ending its eavesdropping on friendly foreign leaders, Correa lashed out at the U.S. for spying on leaders ranging from Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff to German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“At first they said it was necessary for fighting against terrorism,” Correa said, according to Russian news agency RT. “I don’t know if Angela Merkel is a terrorist. I think it is clear they used surveillance programs for economic reasons, for helping their transnational companies.”
The Ecuadoran leader also said he believes that if these allegations were leveled against another country it would be put on international trial for such large-scale spying.
Correa’s comments came after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been another strong critic of the U.S. governments spy program. Russia granted temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee and NSA contractor who revealed a number of classified documents about NSA surveillance practices.
Ecuador also granted Snowden asylum, but because of difficulties flying over the airspace of U.S. allies he choose to remain in Russia.
The latest fallout in the NSA scandal – which has threatened U.S. relations with Brazil, France, Mexico and Germany – has involved Spain.
Spain's public prosecutor launched a preliminary inquiry on Tuesday into reports that U.S. intelligence spied on million of its citizens.
Attorney General Eduardo Torres-Dulce authorized an information gathering process after El Mundo newspaper reported on Monday that the United States had tracked more than 60 million Spanish phone calls, his office said in a statement.
Spain summoned the U.S. ambassador on Monday to discuss the allegations, which are similar to reports of U.S. spying in France and Germany that have caused a rare diplomatic upset between the Washington and its European allies.
Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said if the reports were true it would break the "climate of trust" between the two countries.
El Mundo published a graphic it said was a National Security Agency (NSA) document showing the U.S. agency had spied on 60.5 million phone calls in Spain between December 10, 2012 and January 8 this year. It said the document was part of papers obtained from Snowden.
While the NSA scandal is damaging to U.S.-Spanish relations, the country’s foreign minister assured the public that talks between the two nations on a number of issues would not be affected.
On a visit to Lithuania on Tuesday, García-Margallo stressed Spain's close ties with the United States and said negotiations over a European free-trade agreement would not stop.
"We work very closely with USA on security, we have some common topics where our positions are the same," he told a news conference.
Reuters contributed to this report.