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.

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Mexico’s Pemex to up gasoline imports after refinery fire -source

6/20/2017 Reuters

pemexMexican state oil producer Pemex will import additional gasoline after a major fire last week at its largest refinery that halted production, a company source said on Tuesday.

Pemex is still evaluating the extent of the damage from the fire at the Salina Cruz refinery in the state of Oaxaca and does not know when production will resume, said the source. He did not know how much gasoline Pemex would import.

For over a year Pemex has been searching for investment partners to boost the aging facility’s productivity, but with no takers to date. It has a capacity of 330,000 barrels per day.

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Mexico to slow pace of budget cuts in 2018 -finance minister

6/20/2017 Reuters

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Mexican Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade attends a conference marking the International Day of Family Remittances 2017 in Mexico City, Mexico June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

Mexico’s government should slow the pace of its budget cuts next year and it will not likely see a surplus from the central bank due to the recovery in the peso currency, the country’s finance minister said on Tuesday.

Mexico’s 2018 budget is likely to see a lower “adjustment” to public finances than in previous budgets, finance minister Jose Antonio Meade said in an interview on local radio.

He said Mexico would still meet a deficit target of 2.5 percent of gross domestic product by the end of 2018.

The collapse in global oil prices LCOc1 CLc1 in late 2014 forced Mexico to make sizeable cuts to the federal budget in the past couple of years, and Wall Street credit rating agencies last year warned they could cut Mexico’s debt rating.

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Four Mexican federal police killed in ambush in Guerrero

6/19/2017 Reuters

guerreroGunmen ambushed Mexican federal police agents on Monday killing four and wounding seven in Guerrero, one of the country’s states that is most plagued by drug-violence, the government said.

The agents were attacked during an operation in the municipality of San Miguel Totolapan, the federal attorney general’s office said in a statement.

One criminal suspect was killed and three were wounded, the office said.

State authorities said soldiers and state police were searching for the gunmen. San Miguel Totolapan is a fiefdom of Los Tequileros, one of the bloodiest criminal gangs in Guerrero.

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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).

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Mexico auctions two-thirds of blocks in shallow water oil tender

6/19/2017 Reuters

Martin Magana, bidding director for the Mexico’s national hydrocarbons commission (CNH) examines documents during an auction of 15 offshore blocks, in Mexico City
Martin Magana, bidding director for the Mexico’s national hydrocarbons commission (CNH) examines documents during an auction of 15 offshore blocks, in Mexico City, Mexico June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Mexico on Monday auctioned two-thirds of the shallow water oil and gas blocks up for grabs in the latest round of its energy market opening, surpassing the cautious estimates officials made last week.

Italy’s Eni, Colombia’s Ecopetrol and Capricorn Energy, a unit of Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy, were among the companies at the forefront of the bidding for 15 blocks in the southern Gulf of Mexico.

Ten of the 15 blocks were taken up in the auction.

“This is a great result,” Juan Carlos Zepeda, head of the oil industry regulator known as the CNH, told a news conference.

Eni took one of the blocks by itself and two in consortium with other companies. One comprised Capricorn and Mexican oil firm Citla Energy, the other was with Citla alone.

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Using Texts as Lures, Government Spyware Targets Mexican Journalists and Their Families

6/19/2017 The New York Times

A US cable claimed Televisa gave the Mexico State governor Enrique Peña Nieto wide coverageMEXICO CITY — Mexico’s most prominent human rights lawyers, journalists and anti-corruption activists have been targeted by advanced spyware sold to the Mexican government on the condition that it be used only to investigate criminals and terrorists.

The targets include lawyers looking into the mass disappearance of 43 students, a highly respected academic who helped write anti-corruption legislation, two of Mexico’s most influential journalists and an American representing victims of sexual abuse by the police. The spying even swept up family members, including a teenage boy.

Since 2011, at least three Mexican federal agencies have purchased about $80 million worth of spyware created by an Israeli cyberarms manufacturer. The software, known as Pegasus, infiltrates smartphones to monitor every detail of a person’s cellular life — calls, texts, email, contacts and calendars. It can even use the microphone and camera on phones for surveillance, turning a target’s smartphone into a personal bug.

The company that makes the software, the NSO Group, says it sells the tool exclusively to governments, with an explicit agreement that it be used only to battle terrorists or the drug cartels and criminal groups that have long kidnapped and killed Mexicans.

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