Mexico to Investigate Spying Campaign Against Journalists and Activists

6/21/2017 The New York Times

journalists.jpg
Credit Alfredo Estrella/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

MEXICO CITY — The Mexican government said Wednesday that it was opening a criminal investigation to determine whether the nation’s most prominent journalists, human rights defenders and anticorruption activists were subjected to illegal government surveillance.

The announcement followed an article by The New York Times that detailed a sweeping operation using advanced spyware to infiltrate a target’s smartphone, turning it into a power surveillance tool.

The software, known as Pegasus, was sold to the Mexican government by an Israeli cyberarms company on the condition that it be used for the sole purpose of investigating criminals and terrorists. But the spyware was deployed against some of Mexico’s most influential reporters and activists, including a highly respected academic pushing for anticorruption legislation, two of Mexico’s most famous journalists, and lawyers looking into the case of 43 students who mysteriously disappeared after clashing with the police.

Read more…

Government Spying Allegations in Mexico Spur Calls for Inquiry

6/20/2017 The New York Times

peña-nietoMEXICO CITY — After reports this week that sophisticated government-owned surveillance software was used to spy on some of Mexico’s most prominent journalists and activists, victims and others have demanded an independent inquiry into the allegations.

The calls came in response to an article by The New York Times and to a parallel report by several Mexican and international organizations, both of which found that the Israeli-made spyware, which was sold to the Mexican government on the strict condition that it be used only against terrorists and criminal groups, was deployed against some of the government’s most outspoken critics.

The software, called Pegasus, can infiltrate a smartphone and allow spies to monitor all activity on it, including calls, texts and emails.

Nine victims of the spyware campaign have filed a criminal complaint with the Mexican attorney general’s office. They include lawyers looking into the still-unsolved disappearance of 43 students in 2014; a leader of an initiative to pass anticorruption legislation; and the journalist who uncovered a scandal involving the family of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Read more…

Activists and journalists in Mexico complain of government spying

6/19/2017 Reuters

carmen-aristegui

Activists, human-rights lawyers and journalists in Mexico filed a criminal complaint on Monday following a report that their smartphones had been infected with spying software sold to the government to fight criminals and terrorists.

The complaint to the attorney general’s office by nine people followed a report by the New York Times that some of them had been spied on with software known as Pegasus, which Israeli company NSO Group sold to Mexico’s government.

Citing a report by a research group that investigated the alleged spying, the complaint says the attorney general’s office and the defense ministry were among government organizations that purchased the software.

Those claiming to be targeted by the software included Carmen Aristegui, a journalist who in 2014 helped reveal that President Enrique Pena Nieto’s wife had acquired a house from a major government contractor, as well as Carlos Loret de Mola, a journalist at leading television network Televisa (TLVACPO.MX).

Read more…

One-Month Anniversary of the Murder of Mexican Journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas

6/15/2017 The Expert Take, Mexico Institute

By Eric L. Olson and Gina Hinojosa

expert I (2)One month ago today, world-renowned Mexican journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas was ambushed by unidentified assailants while leaving his office in his hometown of Culiacán, Sinaloa. According to press reports, he was pulled from his car, shot a dozen times in the middle of the day on a crowded street, and left lifeless in the middle of the road. His signature Panama hat lay bloodied beside him.

Reporting from the base of the infamous Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s ruthlessly violent Sinaloa Cartel, Valdez was widely recognized as one of Mexico’s most fearless journalists. One of the country’s leading chroniclers of organized crime, corruption, and the intricate links between the two, he was awarded the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)’s International Press Freedom Award in 2011. “In a country where widespread self-censorship is the consequence of violence by drug syndicates and criminal gangs, Valdez still covers sensitive issues,” wrote CPJ in its announcement of the award.

Days after his death, fellow reporter Javier Garza Ramos wrote in El País that Valdez’s murder “shook the Mexican press unlike any other act of violence against journalists in the past decade.” Violent attacks against media workers are not uncommon in in Mexico (more than 100 journalists have been killed since 2000), but such high profile, internationally recognized reporters are rarely targeted. Valdez’s assassination sends a chilling message to the Mexican press: no journalist in Mexico is untouchable.

Read more…

How the U.S. Triggered a Massacre in Mexico

6/12/2017 ProPublica

Untitled.png
Photo credit: Mark Smith, special to ProPublica

The inside story of a cartel’s deadly assault on a Mexican town near the Texas border — and the U.S. drug operation that sparked it.

We have testimony from people who say they participated in the crime. They described some 50 trucks arriving in Allende, carrying people connected to the cartel. They broke into houses, they looted them and burned them. Afterward, they kidnapped the people who lived in those houses and took them to a ranch just outside of Allende.

First they killed them. They put them inside a storage shed filled with hay. They doused them with fuel and lit them on fire, feeding the flames for hours and hours.

– José Juan Morales, Investigative Director for the disappeared in the Coahuila State Prosecutor’s Office

Read the full story by ProPublica and National Geographic…

Another Journalist Shot, Seriously Wounded in South Mexico

6/3/2017 New York Times

youth with handgunMEXICO CITY — Another journalist has come under attack in Mexico. This time the victim is a woman who hosts a program on an indigenous radio station in the southern state of Guerrero.

State security spokesman Roberto Alvarez Heredia says Marcela de Jesus Natalia was shot in the head on Saturday as she left the government-owned station on the town of Ometepec.

He says she’s in critical condition at an Acapulco hospital.

Alvarez says he doesn’t know of any threats against de Jesus Natalia, who also has worked for a local family aid agency.

Read more…

Mexico’s top diplomat says Venezuela is no longer a democracy

5/30/2017 Reuters

12617767433_5b228a3da0_n.jpg
Flickr/Globovisión

Mexico’s top diplomat Luis Videgaray said on Tuesday that Venezuela is no longer a functioning democracy, one day before foreign ministers from across the Americas are due to meet to discuss the crisis gripping the South American country.

The comments mark one of the most aggressive critiques of the government of Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro to date from Videgaray, the former finance minister and close confidant of President Enrique Pena Nieto.

“We have to call things by their name, and what we have here is a country that, in fact, has ceased to be a functional democracy and this is a tremendously dangerous thing for the region,” Videgaray said at the Americas Conference Series in Miami, Florida.

The conference was organized by the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald news organizations as a forum of international business and government leaders.

Videgaray has been sharply criticized by Maduro’s government but has nonetheless pledged to use all diplomatic channels to help reach a peaceful political solution to the bloody crisis in Venezuela.

Read more…