MEXICO CITY — Mexicans are shocked — shocked! — to learn that their American neighbors have been spying on them. What’s more, the Americans have been helping the Mexican government become better at spying!
Mexico is the latest Latin America country to be dragged into the scandal revolving around Edward Snowden, the fugitive contract worker for the National Security Agency who leaked U.S. intelligence secrets and is hiding out in the Moscow airport.
The Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported this week that the vast network of U.S. surveillance exposed by Snowden has targeted Mexico, with the goal of obtaining information on its petroleum and energy resources as well as drug trafficking. The paper reported similar snooping in Brazil, Colombia and elsewhere, involving military operations, purported terrorism and other fields.
The news spread like wildfire in Mexico, filling the front pages of newspapers and the airwaves of talk radio shows. But spying in Mexico, by Mexicans and foreigners, has a long and storied history. Some of the best political scandals were the result of surreptitious listening, photographing and recording.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who took office in December, said the U.S. espionage in Mexico, if true, would be “totally unacceptable.” The Foreign Ministry said it had demanded an explanation from the Obama administration, condemning “energetically” any deviation from “legal and respectful” U.S.-Mexican relations.
Senators, congressmen and assorted politicians voiced similar versions of outrage. The presidents of Argentina and Brazil, Cristina Fernandez and Dilma Rousseff, respectively, have also demanded explanations from Washington after the spy programs were revealed as having targeted their countries.
Latin American leaders were already miffed after the airplane carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales from Moscow last week was forced to land in Vienna and searched by authorities when Snowden was suspected of being on board. The action, presumably taken at the Obama administration’s behest, was seen as a shabby way to treat a head of state.
Here in Mexico, many people were focusing on reports that former President Felipe Calderon, whom Peña Nieto succeeded, authorized the Americans to install equipment for tapping phones and computers. MVS Radio reported on scores of training courses, including some involving secret surveillance techniques, that members of Calderon’s government took under U.S. tutelage.
Calderon’s six-year administration worked hand-in-glove with U.S. civilian and military officials as part of a deadly, nationwide offensive against powerful drug cartels.