Mexican Bugs

David Honig honig at
Thu Mar 26 10:30:19 PST 1998
Mexican wiretapping scandal places
 political reforms in doubt
March 26, 1998

 By Mark Stevenson, Associated Press

 MEXICO CITY (AP) — When members of
 an opposition party burst into a secret
 government wiretapping station this
 month, they did more than reveal a
 political scandal: They exposed some of
 the deepest secrets of common citizens
 in the coastal city of Campeche. 

 The wiretapping, apparently orchestrated
 by the state government to get
 information on opposition groups, has
 spawned a scandal that reaches into at
 least four other states. In most cases,
 opposition politicians were the targets. 

 But nowhere has the damage been as
 great as in Campeche, where a powerful eavesdropping system set
 up in a private home had the capacity to tap virtually all phones in
 the southern city of 200,000 people — and record some of their
 darkest lies and infidelities. 

 "We stood there in shock, in rage, impotence, as we heard
 recordings and read transcripts of our telephone conversations,''
 said Layda Sansores, a senator for the leftist opposition Democratic
 Revolution Party who discovered the surveillance center on a tip.
 "There are difficult moments over the course of seven years, things
 you don't want to remember.'' 

 "We heard a tape of one telephone call in which a man said he was
 with another man's wife. The wife was there in the room with us,
 listening,'' Sansores said at a news conference Wednesday. 

 A local journalist present during the March 3 raid on the
 surveillance center was quoted in one wiretap transcript as denying
 accusations of rape, noting he `just had fun with' an unidentified
 woman. "We haven't seen him in public since,'' Sansores said. 

 The taping in the city on the Gulf of Mexico, which used
 sophisticated computer equipment supplied by an Israeli firm,
 apparently began in 1991. Three men caught operating the bank of
 computers and phone switches have been arrested and charged with
 espionage and criminal association. Two had worked at some point
 for state police. 

 "We are a small family in Campeche, and this hurts our very
 fabric,'' Sansores said. 

 Documents uncovered by Sansores in the tiny, computerized
 wiretapping center — including dozens of tapes and transcripts of
 her own conversations "and those of everyone around me, nieces,
 sisters, my parents'' — suggest the eavesdropping was paid for by
 the Campeche state government. 

 The current government, which took office in late 1997, has
 blamed the wiretapping on a previous state governor and said the
 current governor didn't know about it. 

 Experts and politicians disagree on whether Mexico is experiencing
 a surge in wiretappings and surveillance, at a time when opposition
 groups are threatening the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party's
 69-year uninterrupted grip on power. 

 Sansores claims that there are up to 22 of the eavesdropping
 stations around the country, and mentioned four other states where
 her supporters or party colleagues believe they have evidence of
 such surveillance. 

 On March 18, authorities seized a network of phone-tapping
 equipment and secret cameras in Monterrey that reportedly had
 been rented by politicians and businessmen in the northern city. 

 Several weeks earlier, a top official in the Mexico City government
 and also from the Democratic Revolution Party — the first
 opposition party ever to govern the capital — said she found two
 tiny surveillance cameras in her office. 

 "There is a new way of doing things when a new group comes to
 power,'' said Joel Estudillo, an analyst at the Mexican Institute of
 Political Studies. "Politicians say, `We have to find out what these
 people have done''' in the past. 

 In a closed political circle like that which has dominated Mexico for
 most of the century, secrets like past corruption are often known
 but seldom publicized until a grudge or a competition makes such
 information a valuable weapon, Estudillo said. 

 "Those kinds of understandings and internal arrangements have so
 far prevented espionage from becoming a big problem.'' 
      David Honig                   Orbit Technology
     honig at                  Intaanetto Jigyoubu

Maybe them boys in Jonesboro were trying out for Lon Horiuchi's job.


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