Opinion
The admiral behind Pegasu
Por Milton Merlo
The history of Pegasus in Mexico is related to a military correlate involving the Pentagon.

 The revelations of the The Guardian in the United Kingdom about the use of the Pegasus spy program in various countries of the world has Mexico as a primary scenario of the operations of the company that owns the program, NSO Group, a firm of Israeli origin but controlled by an investment fund based in London.

The Guardian picked up a scandal that exploded in the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto, when it became known that the Pegasus malware was spying on opponents and journalists critical of the former PRI government. The case generated a strong repudiation of a government in its final phase and President Peña Nieto only went on to say - in a cryptic way - that he too was being spied on. It was June 2017.

The history of Pegasus in Mexico is a related to a military correlate involving the Pentagon. During the last administration, various malware licenses were purchased for $32 million. This was used by the Attorney General's Office, Cisen (the Federal Intelligence Agency) and the Navy Secretariat.

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When the case broke out over an investigation by The New York Times, the opposition quickly organized a congressional commission for the officials involved to account for how Pegasus had been used in Mexico. But the military high command was not even summoned to these secret hearings. At the last minute, the PRI and PAN Senators prevented this questioning.

The analysis that circulated in Congress at that time is that the PRI's parliamentary coordinators operated so that the military would not come to avoid tensions with the Peña Nieto government, which had been facing the generals by a series of internal security laws that they intended but that Peña Nieto was not sure of promoting. These laws expanded the military's range of action in domestic affairs. They would be enacted in December 2017.

During the last administration, various malware licenses were purchased for $32 million.

Pegasus was acquired by Admiral Vidal Soberon, who is close to the Pentagon and especially to Jim Mattis, a Marine, four-star general and First Secretary of Defense under Donald Trump.

The argument that the Mexican generals received from their U.S. counterparts was that Pegasus was very useful for the pursuit of drug trafficking and that thanks to this program the United States was able to find Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman, in January 2016 in Sinaloa. With these arguments Soberón justified the acquisition.

This admiral, decorated by the Pentagon, is a military man with good relations with the political and business class of Mexico, to the point that in certain meetings with businessmen he was proposed to explore the possibility of a political career, something that never materialized.

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Soberón in turn had a friendship with General Salvador Cienfuegos, the secretary of defense in the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto. Cienfuegos was arrested in Los Angeles in October 2020. The DEA accused him of alleged ties to drug trafficking. When they offered their regulatory call, the first person he contacted Soberón. A month later he was released by decision of the Department of Justice.

When Andrés Manuel López Obrador won the presidency in June 2018, he had a diverse attitude towards the armed forces and their leadership. Cienfuegos, who was leaving the Army, could not choose his successor but Soberón had no problem leaving Admiral Rafael Ojeda Duran in charge.

Pegasus was acquired by Admiral Vidal Soberon, who is close to the Pentagon and especially to Jim Mattis, a Marine, four-star general and First Secretary of Defense under Donald Trump.

This permanence and the connections it implies with respect to Pegasus feeds the theory, within the cabinet, that there is a strong internal espionage in the government by the military on the secretaries, advisers, and collaborators of the Presidency. Journalist Raymundo Riva Palacios warned in his editorials that the practice is not only internal and that journalists are also spied on, just as the Peña Nieto government.

Thus the circle closes because according to journalistic investigations, both López Obrador and his entire family were victims of Pegasus when they were the opposition. The persecuted becomes a persecutor. 

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