Pegasus, the spyware. The Mexican experience.

Are they watching us? Photo: Ricardo Silva. Model: Gal Zohar.

Six degrees away from Big Brother. Is democracy in danger?

  1. The hero Bellerophon, the Chimera executioner, managed to tame Pegasus with the one who flew over his enemies to stone them. He flew so high that he was shot down by Zeus, Pegasus came riderless to Olympus and was reserved only for the gods.
  2. Pegasus is a spyware that is applied to Apple and Android devices. According to an article in The Guardian, developer NSO claims that the tool provides “authorized governments with technology that helps them fight terrorism and crime.”
  3. In January 2022, journalist Tomer Ganon published on Calcalist, that the Israeli police used Pegasus to spy on the phones of Israeli citizens. Mayors and former government employees were tracked without a warrant authorizing surveillance.
  4. In 2017, the WikiLeaks platform, dedicated to obtaining and disseminating classified documents, revealed that the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic of Mexico, hired for 32 million dollars a company that boasted: “to sell the PEGASUS interception system to Mexico.”
  5. The government of President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018) acknowledged that Pegasus was hired to fight organized crime. That combat was flimsy. Even the most wanted criminal in history, Joaquin Guzman Loera “El Chapo” easily escaped prison in 2015. The Mexican government was unwilling or unable to recapture him, until actors Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo published an encounter with the fugitive.
  6. But Pegasus did serve the government of Enrique Peña Nieto to spy on journalists and political adversaries. The press counts at least 15,000 civilians surveilled with spyware.

Peña Nieto closed his cycle with 156,437 homicides, the highest in recent history. Crime worked comfortably. However, thousands of journalists denounced espionage, the government received the complaint, but eight months later the file was shelved.

If such expensive and sophisticated software failed to minimally combat crime in Mexico, what was it used for then?

The current president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (2018 -2024) promised in his election campaign to investigate, prosecute and imprison former presidents for acts of corruption, then, he organized a national consultation to know if the people agreed, 7 million people supported him but, he let go of the helm.

From the criminal trial, he went on to daily verbal attack of former presidents, with the Peña Nieto’s exception, whom he mentions little, despite the fact that he built great fortune and dream life with his time as president, but the promised justice does not touch him.

It’s not difficult to speculate that Peña Nieto bought a lifeguard when he knew that his main critic was going to be the most powerful man in the country. Peña Nieto’s peace of mind around the world is that of those who have a credit card with unlimited access.

A research published by the NGO Forbidden Stories, in partnership with Amnesty International, states that some 50 people close to President López Obrador were spied on with Pegasus, a situation that López Obrador himself denounced in his morning conferences. What can Peña Nieto find in López Obrador’s intimate life?

The press has made revelations from President López Obrador’s family, videos showing his brothers illegally receiving cash, a cousin enjoying millionaire contracts with government companies and his eldest son living as a tycoon in Houston. What else will come to light?

The current government has opened the investigation into the use of Pegasus in the Peña Nieto’s government, but the investigation is slow. And did the current government throw the Pegasus program to the bottom of the sea? Animal Político, an independent journalistic media in Mexico, revealed that the current government approved a million-dollar contract for a company that collaborated with the spyware provider Pegasus. This contract was hidden from the opinion for five years.

As if that were not enough, if with Enrique Peña Nieto the relationship with the press was difficult, with López Obrador it is a fight club. Crime continues to work and thousands of murders remain unsolved. A few weeks ago, the European Parliament called on the Mexican authorities to ensure the protection and security of the press. They point to “clear indications that the Mexican state has used telephone hacking tools aimed at fighting terrorism and cartels, including the Pegasus spyware, against journalists and human rights defenders.”

When politicians use resources and taxpayers’ money to maintain their megalomania, democracy agonizes. The Israeli company NSO provided a sophisticated tool to irrational and perhaps psychopaths. They had to impose stronger chains on their customers to contain mafia beasts. They were disrespectful with the name chosen for their system: “Pegasus” which by its lethality of being able to fly above men, was reserved only for gods.

About the Author
Journalist in Mexico for more than 30 years. I made Aliyah in 2020. I collaborate as a content creator on social networks. Director of content in the organization "El Aleph, the Jewish voice of the radio" for the education and dissemination of Jewish culture in Spanish.
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