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Massive Leak of Military Docs Reveals Mexico Armed Cartels, Surveilled Journalists & Zapatistas

StoryOctober 12, 2022
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A stunning leak of more than 4 million documents from inside the Mexican military has revealed collusion between high-level military officials and the country’s cartels. The leak, published by the hacking group Guacamaya, is one of the largest in Mexico’s history and shows how military officials sold weapons, technical equipment and key information about rival gangs to cartels. The documents also show how officials monitored journalists and activists using Pegasus spyware, and evaded cooperation with the investigation into the disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa. For more, we’re joined by journalist Luis Chaparro, who examined some of the documents and reported in a piece for Vice that they reveal Mexico’s military sold grenades to the drug cartels.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The singer Mon Laferte. Not known for their music reviews, the Mexican Army called the musician “a danger due to her songs” and targeted her for surveillance, as revealed in the Guacamaya Leaks. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we look at those leaks.

A massive leak of over 4 million confidential documents from the Mexican government has revealed Mexico’s military sold hand grenades and tactical equipment to drug cartels. Mexico’s Ministry of National Defense was targeted by a group of hackers known as Guacamaya. The leak is one of the biggest in Mexico’s history.

Documents also show Mexican officials monitored journalists, using the Israeli Pegasus spyware, and evaded cooperation with the investigation into the disappearance of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa. The leak also shows the Zapatistas are one of the most heavily surveilled resistance groups in Mexico.

For more, we go to El Paso, Texas, to reporter Luis Chaparro, whose new piece for Vice is headlined “Leaked Emails Show Mexico’s Military Sold Grenades to the Cartels.”

Luis, welcome to Democracy Now! Lay out what you found. If you could start again? We just didn’t have your microphone up. We don’t hear you. Make sure you’re off mute. Don’t hear you. Can you — sorry, we don’t hear you. Somehow, are you on mute? I think I hear you now.

LUIS CHAPARRO: All right. Perfect.


LUIS CHAPARRO: Amy and Juan, thank you for having me, first of all.

And yeah, I mean, this massive leaking of documents revealed something that we really suspected was happening, right? Which was this massive participation of the Mexican military with drug cartels, but we just didn’t really know to what extent they were actively participating with drug cartels. This data leaking really showed that they were not only selling grenades to drug cartels but also providing them with tactical equipment.

And maybe like the most dangerous part of this link between Mexican military and the cartels was the surveillance they were having on journalists and information they were passing along, but also on Mexican government officials. There was a conversation leaked where a Mexican military member flags a call he oversaw where this cartel member is asking a Mexican official inside the military to track down a target inside one of the Mexican political parties to have a hit on him.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Luis, what’s been the response of President López Obrador to these revelations, especially given the fact that his administration has come to rely increasingly on the Mexican military?

LUIS CHAPARRO: I mean, to no surprise, he’s downplaying the whole leaking of documents. He has been saying that there is nothing new inside these 4 million emails that came to light about two weeks ago. He said that the most important thing, in any case, inside those documents was details about his health, that he’s downgrading, and apparently he’s having heart issues. But, honestly, to my opinion, that’s the least of the problems revealed inside these documents.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what were —


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: What were some of the most surprising things to you from the revelations?

LUIS CHAPARRO: I think two things. First of all, the obvious revelation that the Mexican military is vulnerable to a group of hackers, that literally just used a back door to enter the whole server of emails and gather information within very few days that they had access to. So, first of all, that’s very revealing and very dangerous, because we’re talking about probably the most important institution in Mexico, which is the SEDENA, the Mexican Ministry of Defense.

And second of all, the extent of surveillance the Mexican military is having on journalists, on activists and of different dissident groups to the local — to the current administration, like feminist groups and the Zapatistas movement.

AMY GOODMAN: Mexico is the worst place on Earth for journalist deaths. The use of the Israeli Pegasus spyware to monitor journalists, can you talk about that, and also what you learned about the Mexican governments lack of cooperation into the murder of the 43 students at Ayotzinapa?

LUIS CHAPARRO: Yes, definitely. Also, that’s revealing from inside this data leaking, the participation of Mexican officials and how they tried to hide their involvement in the killing of these 43 students in Ayotzinapa. I mean, that’s something that we all knew from journalist investigations, that also led to the other issue that the Mexican military was really surveilling the Mexican press when it came to investigating the killings of 43 students in Ayotzinapa.

As you and your public might know, Mexico is really going down, and it’s a really — I mean, it’s one of the worst places to actually be a journalist. And that is not only because of the threat of cartels but also to the involvement of the Mexican government working with the cartels, passing along information to criminal organizations, but also surveilling and intimidating journalists themselves, I mean, from the official government.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Luis, in a related story, Mexico has filed another lawsuit against five U.S.-based firearm dealers, all of them in Arizona, that they claim are responsible for fueling the flow of illegal weapons and a surge in murders in Mexico. Could you talk about that lawsuit and the one that preceded it?

LUIS CHAPARRO: Definitely. So, this is the second attempt by the Mexican government to sue, first, the U.S. government, to no avail, and then some private companies selling — or, allegedly selling guns to drug cartels. The first attempt to do this was thrown down by a U.S. federal judge, and this is the second attempt. And the Mexican government is now going after just a few companies, particularly in Arizona, where most of the guns used by Mexican drug cartels are coming from.

This suit, to my understanding, has very little opportunities to actually go through, as the first one, first of all, because the U.S. gun manufacturers have a huge set of resources, of legal resources, to fight against a suit like this one, and, second of all, because I think the target or the goal to this suit is actually to just pay attention to what the U.S. manufacturers are doing, and not only the responsibility of the U.S. government in all the violence currently happening in Mexico, but also to bring light to the responsibility on private companies on this issue. Documents and investigations that I’ve seen show that 80% of the guns traced back to the U.S. are coming from shops in Arizona, which is a major corridor for most of the top cartels in Mexico, like the Sinaloa Cartel and the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación. And this is —

AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there, Luis, but we are going to continue our conversation in a post-show. Also, you followed a bus from El Paso of migrants sent to New York. We want to talk about that. And we’ll do an interview in Spanish, and we will post it online. By the way, on our website, you can also see our headlines, read them and listen to them, in Spanish at Luis Chaparro, we want to thank you so much for your participation. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Stay safe.

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