Colombia questions US Internet snooping

US Secretary of State John Kerry began his first visit to Latin America Monday with a trip to Colombia and expected questions over electronic surveillance of the closest US ally in South America.

Kerry started by meeting with officials overseeing Colombian peace talks with the leftist rebel army FARC, Latin America's oldest insurgency.

Later, in casual clothes, he played volleyball with soldiers and police who have lost limbs to land mines in the war and played the game in wheel chairs.

The top US diplomat was to meet later with his Colombian counterpart Maria Angela Holguin and President Juan Manuel Santos.

The US ambassador to Colombia said those discussions will touch on the US electronic snooping, which came to light when fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden revealed details of huge US telephone and Internet surveillance programs.

Kerry will head Tuesday to Brazil, where the spy programs have also raised eyebrows.

In the case of Colombia, the secret US Internet capability allowed Washington to map movements of the FARC, the Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported last month.

The report said this took place from 2008 until early this year.

Elsewhere in Latin America, the Americans also picked up data on oil and military spending in Venezuela and on energy and drug trafficking in Mexico, according to the daily.

US ambassador Michael McKinley said on the radio station RCN that the Colombian chapter of the surveillance will be discussed "in a constructive way."

He said the United States was perfectly willing to discuss the surveillance with Colombia or any other ally.

"It is not an issue we are running away from," the ambassador said.

After the report in O Globo last month, Colombia complained that the surveillance violated its people's right to privacy and international telecoms accords and said it would seek an explanation from the United States.

Colombia is the United States' closest ally in South America. US aid to it for fighting drug trafficking and rebels has surpassed $8 billion since 2000.

In his meetings with Santos, Kerry will also discuss security issues, the government peace talks with the FARC and a free trade accord in effect now between the United States and Colombia, McKinley said.