Our Fronteras Desk reporter at Marfa Public Radio, Lorne Matalon reports.
The latest revelation of documents tied to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is angering some Mexicans. Others say they are saddened but not surprised.
NSA started rebuiling a former Sony chip fabrication plant in San Antonio, Texas into an intelligence gathering center starting in 2007. Newly released information tied to the Edward Snowden affair documents U.S. spying from the facility of the email and other sensitive communications of current President Enrique Peña Nieto and former Mexican President Felipe Calderón.
Mexican investigative journalist Carmen Aristegui on Radio MVS in Mexico City began her program Monday telling her audience about the revelations, mentioning they had just been translated from the German newspaper Der Spiegel.
We reached former Mexican Foreign Secretary Jorge Castañeda on his cell phone. Still a player in Mexican politics, Castañeda recalls the U.S. spying on Brazil’s President Dilma Rouseff and calls the spying on Mexico “an unfriendly attack.”
“People like Peña Nieto and President Rouseff in Brazil are going to have to take a tougher stand in relation to President Obama on this issue. And he’s going to have to take a more forthcoming stand to try to get to the bottom of this because it can continue endlessly,” Castañeda said. “I don’t think we’ve seen the end of this.”
The Obama administration has promised to investigate.
In a statement, the American Embassy in Mexico said “As a matter of policy, we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.”
The U.S. and Mexico “are strategic partners and enjoy close cooperation on many fronts,” the statement said, adding that Obama and Peña Nieto “share a desire to work more closely to bring prosperity and security to our citizens.”
In Mexico, there is a saying, ”The U.S never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity,” in this case offending a neighbor it hopes to foster close relations with.
Federico Estévez is a political scientist at Mexico City’s ITAM, a leading private university that practically breeds diplomats for Mexico’s Foreign Service. Estévez says Mexicans are hardly blasé about this. But they’re not surprised.
“There are many elements that are angry and that were spied upon. How long has this been going on? Probably ages. Although not with this technology,” Estévez said. “But we’re not, I’m not surprised. I would think U.S. intelligence has systematically gathered information.”
Peña Nieto has not officially addressed the revelation. Mexico City-based reporter David Agren often writes about the yin and yang of a complicate bilateral relationship.
“Peña Nieto’s main agenda is economic and that means closer ties with the United States,” Agren said. “As for some sort of retaliation, severing ties, that’s not in the interest of his administration. He doesn’t want to obviously look like he’s some sort of U.S. stooge or that he’s permitting bad behavior to go on in Mexico. But he also knows that he needs the economic relationship to be strong. He’s not going to overlook this but at least not let it hinder affairs between the two countries.”
Mexico’s Foreign Ministry’s message is “This practice is unacceptable.” In a tweet, former President Calderón says he’s told Mexico’s Foreign Secretary Jose Antonio Meade to convey Calderon’s vehement protest against the spying.