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The devil is in the details…

26 October 2013


Laura Carlsen, “New NSA Mexico Leaks Raise Questions“:

…”White Tamale,” dates back to 2009, when the NSA managed to hack into the emails of high-level officials in the now-defunct Public Security Ministry. Der Spiegel reports: “In the space of a single year, according to the internal documents, this operation produced 260 classified reports that allowed US politicians to conduct successful talks on political issues and to plan international investments.”

The documents note that the spy operation allowed the NSA to gain access to “diplomatic talking points.”

What does this mean? Wouldn’t using ill-begotten private communications in negotiations be something akin to blackmail?

In any case, it seems to have fulfilled its purpose because during the subsequent period U.S. intelligence, military, police and drug enforcement agencies achieved an unprecedented margin to operate in-country, effectively breaking down any remaining nationalist resistance to their activities on Mexican soil.

The Der Speigel article states that in spy operations in Mexico, “the drug trade” was given top priority level, while the country’s “political leadership,” “economic stability” and “international investment relations” received number-three priority rankings on a scale of five. This latter category gives credence to charges from Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff that the NSA used its apparatus for industrial spying, seeking advantages for U.S. transnational corporations….

The bigger question, right now, is why the Mexican response has been so muted.  Mexico has traditionally, for the most part, gone in for quiet diplomacy which — surprisingly enough — generally works.  Except when dealing with the United States where sometimes a bit more than a stiffly worded note is needed.  Given the unquiet way the U.S. has interfered over the years (never mind invading the country three times and openly supporting the Huerta coup of 1913), its hard to think of what it would take to get the attention of the “Colossus of the North”.  In 1928, when U.S. Ambassador Frank Sheffield was caught red-handed (or rather, “ham handedly”) plotting to overthrow the Mexican government (though, among other things, American football games!), Plutaro Elías Calles had to threaten to blow up the to country’s oil wells to get though to Calvin Coolidge exactly what Mexican meant by respect for one’s neighbors.  Lazaro Cardenas, in 1939, had to threaten to sell oil to the Axis in order to get the U.S. (and the British, who were still a power back then) to back off from their own diplomatic efforts to force Mexican businesses to follow the dictates of the multi.national corporations that operated under U.S. or British flags.

I’m not sure what the Peña Nieto administration can do that’s on the scale needed here.  While I think, and have thought for some time, that Mexico’s biggest economic and social problem is its too close economic ties to the United States (no reason not to do more business with Asia and Europe), the spying on behalf of U.S. businesses (presumably to the detriment of Mexican business interests) should be answered.  I won’t … and obviously can’t … make any suggestions to the government, but something much stronger than a stiffly worded note is required.

Perhaps, given the U.S. rationale for the communications intercepts that the U.S. government was collecting data on narcotics exports, perhaps the response should have something to do with narcotics.  Cancel any Plan Merida drug war “purchases” (paid for by the U.S. anyway)?  Give every DEA agent 24 hours to leave the country?

Not that either of those options have even been raised, and I realize Brazil is supposedly Mexico’s rival, but in this instance, I would expect AT A MIMINUM, that Mexico would join with Brazil in demanding updates to international protocols and taking direct action (like working with Brazil on cable systems that by-pass the United States) to evade U.S. interference with internal communications.

tempRecognizing U.S. corporate penetration of the Mexican market as being very likely the result of economic espionage, backing off from U.S. (and Canadian… one forgets the Canadians were spying on the Brazilians out of interest in Petrobras, and one can infer they are spying on Mexico to protect their investments in the mining sector) is the easy part.  NAFTA makes it difficult to do much about it, but it could, at least, be made clear that Mexican communications (including cable television rights) and the oil industry are going to remain in Mexican hands.  And, perhaps taking a second look at the questionable decision that allowed Citibank to retain control of Banamex, despite Mexican banking laws forbidding ownership of Mexican banks with substantial investments by foreign governments (as Citibank had, after the bailout).

Diplomacy by other means doesn’t always mean war… but it isn’t delicate either.

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