Complaining Latin American countries eavesdrop
MEXICO CITY — Several Latin American presidents have complained bitterly after recent revelations about the United States' electronic surveillance, but there's a bit of hypocrisy in some of their griping.
At least four Latin countries have requested, and received, American help in setting up eavesdropping programs of their own, ostensibly designed to fight organized crime. But the programs are easily diverted to political ends, and with weak rule of law in parts of the region, wiretapping scandals erupt every few months.
The latest brouhaha occurred six weeks ago in Panama, where a leading presidential candidate complained of wiretapping by the government.
“All Panamanians know that illegal recordings are done by the government every day. The only party able to record and tap telephones is the state, not anyone else,” said Juan Carlos Navarro, a center-left presidential candidate.
Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli told Navarro to watch his mouth because some “beauts” were about to leak out showing how “the most corrupt man” in the nation seeks its presidency.
Some experts on Latin America say they believe wiretapping is probably widespread — not just under authoritarian leaders — and is a reflection of political mistrust, lack of adherence to law and poor accountability.
“You know that old saying,” said Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think tank. “In God we trust, in everyone else we spy.”
Leaks by Edward Snowden have sparked angry responses around the region.
President Enrique Pena Nieto said Wednesday that he'd asked “quite clearly” for Mexican diplomats to seek an explanation for the U.S. spying allegations, and, if proven true, “it would obviously be totally unacceptable.”
Mexico is one of four Latin nations to receive sophisticated surveillance equipment, software and training from the United States in recent years. The other nations are Colombia, Panama and Paraguay.
Other Latin governments can easily obtain surveillance technology if they want it and Washington refuses to provide it.
“There are a lot of companies, especially Israeli ones, that offer the equipment,” said Hiddekel Morrison, a telecommunications expert in Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic.
When Mexico needed help tracking down narcotics kingpins, the State Department awarded a contract in 2007 to a Melville, N.Y., company, Verint Systems Inc., to provide it with an interception system to monitor up to 60 simultaneous calls and record 25,000 hours of fixed-line or cellular calls.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- It’s not a small world after all: Global population estimated to soar
- 21 massacred in Mexico, witnesses say
- Blasts kill dozens in Baghdad area
- Yes or no? Scotland begins to tally vote on whether to split with England, Wales
- Ukraine’s pleas for lethal aid not heard
- Russia’s business world rattled by arrest of oil tycoon Yevtushenkov
- ‘Piecemeal’ World War III has begun, pope warns
- United Nations fears for safety of staff in Kabul
- Hurricane Odile targets Mexico’s Baja California
- Al-Qaida’s South Asia wing claims 1st big strike
- Obama, generals part ways on ground war in Iraq