Over the past two decades, Israel has exported hundreds of millions of Dollars worth of military equipment to Mexico, including various types of drones, naval battle ships, missiles and over 23,000 small arms.
Mexico is also a major buyer and user of Israeli spying and surveillance technologies. Mexico was the first country whose misuse of Pegasus was documented, when the phones of journalists, lawyers, politicians, activists and human rights defenders were targeted. Mexico alone spent more than $160 million on Pegasus over a decade and was the first country in the world to buy the Pegasus software, as early as 2011, becoming a “laboratory” for the spy technology.
Israel – Mexico Relations
Politically, Mexico voted in favor of the Palestinians twice in the UN in 1975 and 1980. In 1978, after a media and public storm against secret offices of the Israeli Aerial Industries in Israel, these were forced to close down.Israel and Latin America, the military connection, Bishara Bahbah & linda butler, New York, 1986, p. 86 In 1981, public and political pressure in Mexico led to the cancellation of the sale of 24 Israeli kfir fighter jets to the Mexican military, together with the abortion of a plan to build a joint Mexican-Israeli aircraft industry in the Yucatan.Israel and Latin America, the military connection, Bishara Bahbah & linda butler, New York, 1986, p. 86
During the 1990‘s however, the relationships between the counties warmed up. In 2002, Israeli president Moshe Kazav was the first Israeli head of state to visit Mexico after in 2000 Mexican Prime minister Ernesto Zedillo made an official visit to Israel. In 2000, the countries signed a free trade agreement and by 2018, their two-way trade grew from 350 million USD to almost 1 billion USD.Economica SNCI : Estadisticas The countries also have about 10 more bi-lateral agreements covering cooperation on trade, drugs and narcotics trafficking, culture, research, water technoladgies and more.
*For the full list of arms deals, click here.
Israel’s reach into the Mexican military market in the 70’s and 80 was extremely limited. Except for a first sale of Arava planes in the early 70‘s, Mexico had a far colder relationship with Israel than other countries in the region. This all changed in 1994. On January 1, 1994, with the North America Free Trade agreement coming into effect, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation declared war on the Mexican government. The Israeli military joined US, Spanish and British forces, as well as others, in training the Mexican military to fight the Zapatistas.the National Security Archive, the George Washington University
Since then, and more in recent years, Israeli arms sales to Mexico have significantly increased. In 2003, Mexico’s military bought Israeli helicopters and Israel Aerospace Industries’ Gabriel missiles. Another Israeli security firm, Magal Security Systems, received one of several contracts for surveillance systems “to protect sensitive installations in Mexico” that same year.Magal receives $1.5m order to protect sensitive installations in Mexico
In 2004, Israel Shipyards sold missile boats, and later both Aeronautics Defense Systems and Elbit Systems won contracts from the federal police and armed forces for drones for border and domestic surveillance.UAV maker Aeronautics to supply Mexican police, Globes In 2004, Elbit’s Hermes drones were the first unmanned aerial vehicles to take to the skies to patrol the Mexican southern border, followed by another sale of the Hermes 450 in 2011. Today, three of five drone types used by the Mexican military for border control are Israeli drones. The same Israeli drones and border surveillance systems are also used by the US in the intensifying militarization of the US-Mexico border.
Between 2006 and 2018, Israel Weapons Industries (I.W.I.) sold 23,772 small arms, valued at approximately 34 million Euros, to Mexico for use by state and municipal police forces.The Deadly Trade Report
Mexican police forces also acquired 7,398 Jericho pistols, and several semi-automatic Uzi’s, Negev sniper rifles and others. In 2019, the Mexican government also approved the sale of Jericho pistols to civilians.7 weapons that the Mexican Government approved ownership for self-defense
In 2011, the Israeli armor manufacturing company Plasan, sold 250 SandCat armored vehicles to the Mexican Ministry of Defense.Plasan wins Mexican defense bid In 2015, the IBN Industrias Militares and Plasan, an Israeli company, agreed to manufacture the Sand Cat in México.the Israeli Plasan and the Mexican IBN Industries united efforts to establish a production line The Mexican Military Industrial Complex
In 2016, IBN started to organize military training courses in cooperation with the Israeli Military Industries (IMI) with focus on Protection of Strategic Installations.IN 2016 IBN INDUSTRIAS MILITARES WILL CARRY OUT THE FIRST ANTI-KIDNAPPING COURSE IN MEXICO At the end of the course, the participants received a certification from IMI with official validity from the government of Israel.IN 2016 IBN INDUSTRIAS MILITARES WILL CARRY OUT THE FIRST ANTI-KIDNAPPING COURSE IN MEXICO
In 2017, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) established a representative office in Mexico.IAI Establishes Representative Office in Mexico Also the Israeli company Skylock (Owned by Avnon Group) has an office in Mexico. They are represented by GB Solution (see intermediary chapter) and presented a live demonstration of their technologies in 2022 in Mexico.Counterdrone solutions
In 2019, the Mexican Federal Protection Service and representatives of the government of Israel held a working meeting with the aim of sharing experiences between security institutions.El Servicio de Protección Federal y el gobierno de Israel comparten experiencias en materia de seguridad
Cyber & Surveillance
*for Pegasus by NSO Group – see Chapter 6.
Verint Systems (Cognyte) – In 2006, an Israeli technology firm, Verint Systems, won a US State Department contract for the wiretapping of Mexican telecommunications in service of the Mexican government.Israel and Mexico swap notes on abusing rights, Jimmy Johnson and Linda Quiquivix, The Electronic Intifada In 2012, this included a Verint system that collects all phone information in the country and gives the Mexican government access to it – all funded by the US.Calcalist : USA will use Verint Systems technology to fight crime in Mexico
As to a report from the government of Mexico thirty Israeli cybersecurity companies operate in Mexico, including Toka Cyber, InElint and Cygov that are providing their services to the government. Elbit and MER have Mexican subsidiaries, says the announcement.Security and cybersecurity – Embassy of Mexico in Israel
As to the Mexican newspaper “Proceso”, Israeli cyber and arms companies such as Verint Systems, Nice Systems, Gamma, Ability, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Rayzone, Phantom Technologies, and Circles sold spying and surveillance technologies to Mexican state governments.Cyber espionage, the key for Tomás Zerón to flee to Israel
The Israeli facial recognition company Corsight mentioned the Mexico Police as one of its customers.Corsight Presentation IST 2020 In addition to that Corsight has a partnership with the Israeli company Juganu, which has technology installations in Veracruz and Xcaret in Mexico.Smart Cities get real: biometric capable tech helps regulate borders, save first responders
The Israeli cyber company Cellebrite which develops phone hacking devices holds an office in Mexico.Bonincontro assumes command of Cellebrite’s operations in Latin America and the Caribbean Cellebrite sold their products to different security agencies in different Mexican states (Nuevo León, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Hidalgo, BCS, Etc.)Supporting the Prosecutor’s Office Is Their Priority: Mexico’s Jalisco State Forensic Investigators Manage Nine-fold Increase in Digital Evidence With Cellebrite Solutions and offered trainings about their forensic technologies and hold meetings with Mexican authorities in the past years.Hidalgo Cellebrite Meeting Cellebrite Meeting Mexico According to an investigation by René Valencia and Karla Cejudo for e-consulta and CONNECTAS , the federal government spent at least 18.4 million pesos on Cellebrite brand forensic analysis and information extraction devices through the intermediary Nuga Sys SA of CV, between 2018 and 2021.The digital surveillance tools used by the Mexican government
The Israeli surveillance technologies company BriefCam held several events and trainings in Mexico.BriefCam Mexico Presentation BriefCam event Mexico Beside of that the Danish company Milestones which uses BriefCam’s technologies operates surveillance technologies and services in different states in Mexico.Milestones and Briefcam Milestones in Mexico Siklu, that are also operating technologies in Mexico, have also an official partnership with BriefCam.Siklu Mexico Siklu’s partners – BriefCam Another provider of BriefCam technologies is the company Arecont, which operates it technologies in Mexico.Arecont Mexico BriefCam
Another Israeli surveillance company that operates technologies in different states in Mexico is CityShob See also: Niv Yarimi- Intermediaries Chapter.City Shob Official website Mic CityShob info The state of Chiapas deployed CityShobs C5 Solution: “C-Insight” intelligent platform, 9-1-1 call handling, video surveillance and specialized security technology subsystems, such as identification of people and vehicles, video analytics, among others.A PUBLIC SAFETY PROJECT- STATE OF CHIAPAS , MEXICO
The Israeli company M.T.R.X, which has been controlled (57%) by the Rayzone Group since March 2015, has developed a cell phone tracking system that it sells to police and intelligence agencies, including authorities in Mexico.The wanted Mexican that is hiding out at the luxury home of the Rayzone group entrepreneur From other documents it was exposed, that in March 2018, Rayzone received from another Israeli company, Senpai, a payment of $50,000 for services the company provided in Mexico.The wanted Mexican that is hiding out at the luxury home of the Rayzone group entrepreneur
Before the sale of Pegasus spyware to Mexico, other hacking teams and spywares were operated by the Mexican government. At least 12 states contracted the services of espionage companies: Edomex, Jalisco, Puebla, Yucatán, Durango, Campeche, Tamaulipas, Querétaro, Sonora, Michoacán and Nayarit, in addition to federal dependencies of the then District Federal. In internal messages of the Italian company “Hacking Team”, different Israel-connected names and companies came up: Kabat Group, Cellebrite, UFED and Niv Yarimi.The government of Peña Nieto also spied on the people of Michoacán, revealed Metapolitica in 2020
Israeli Intermediaries in Mexico
Israeli intermediaries, who are associated with the Israeli embassy in Mexico, have reportedly negotiating with governers and security officials of various states in Mexico. The Indermiediaries are active between Israeli companies that provide spy technologies to Mexican security agencies, including the PGR, the National Defense Secretariat (Sedena) or the National Intelligence and Security Center (Cisen).
Niv Yarimi (Sym Servicios, Kabat Group)
A Mexican company Sym Servicios Integrales, founded by an Israeli businessman, called Niv Moshe Yarimi, provides military and security projects for governments.CEO of SYM Servicios Integrales. Among the partners listed on the company’s website are: Oosto (Anyvision), BriefCam, IAI, Aeronautics, Milestone (who partner with Skylock).Sym Commercial Alliances.
Products that are offered by Sym Servicios Integrales include the Orbiter (by Aeronautics), ASIO (by Bird Aerosystems) and UFED devices (by Cellebrite).Sym Servicios Integrales – Divisions Niv Yarimi is also the CEO of the Israeli company CityShob Software ltd and the Mexican company Kabat Group which provides security services.Kabat group Linkdn Kabat Group
Sym Servicios Integrales invested in 2019 in an aeronautical factury that will provide service to Bell helicopters in Kaua, Mexico. The deal was made with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) which will give technological support.Governor Mauricio Vila Dosal positions Yucatan before the world aviation industry
Niv Yarimi, CEO of Sym Servicios Integrales, Kabat Group and CityShob, was as to the report one of the “Hacking Team” representatives in Mexico.The government of Peña Nieto also spied on the people of Michoacán, revealed Metapolitica in 2020 Sym Servicios that acted as an intermediary in the times of the “Hacking Team” was still importing technology from Israeli companies in 2019, reported “Forbidden Stories”.SPYING ON MEXICAN JOURNALISTS: INVESTIGATING THE LUCRATIVE MARKET OF CYBER-SURVEILLANCE Sym Servicios Integrales – Import from Israel 2019
According to a C4ADS analysis, Sym Servicios Integrales reported 74 imports since 2015, of which 25 were made since December 2018; the vast majority of the products came from companies in Israel, including Verint and Aeronautics, including drones, cell phones, radar devices and laptops.Cyber espionage, the key for Tomás Zerón to flee to Israel
Uri Emmanuel Ansbacher
Another intermediary for a number of Israeli cyber-surveillance companies is as to Forbidden Stories, Uri Emmanuel Ansbacher, an owner of a galaxy of companies in Mexico and a friend of NSO Group director Shalev Hulio.SPYING ON MEXICAN JOURNALISTS: INVESTIGATING THE LUCRATIVE MARKET OF CYBER-SURVEILLANCE
Ansbacher was the key intermediary between Israeli companies that provide spy technology to Mexican security agencies , including the PGR, the National Defense Secretariat (Sedena) or the National Intelligence and Security Center (Cisen). Ansbacher was on of the main distributors of the NSO company’s products in Mexico, including the famous Pegasus spyware.Cyber espionage, the key for Tomás Zerón to flee to Israel
Ansbacher and Avishay Samuel Neriya, who is close to Tomas Zerón de Lucio, were oartners at the company BSD Security Systems, which sold espionage cyber systems to Mexican security agencies.Cyber espionage, the key for Tomás Zerón to flee to Israel
Another such an intermediary is the company Balam Security and its CEO Asaf Zanzuri, who also provided Aeronautic’s Aerostar UAV to Mexico in 2017.Mexico buys advanced Israeli unmanned aerial system Balam Security was described by its officials as “one of the most important intelligence companies in the country (Mexico) and number one in the PGR and the Navy. Our best clients are the Mexican Marines, the PGR, the Cisen, the Federal Police and many prosecutors”.The Spectator | Those from Israel continue to sell technologies to spy on Mexico Balam and especially Asaf Zanzuri and his partner Rodrigo Ruiz de Teresa Treviño, became the main providers of intelligence and security systems to the federal government since 2014. are also related to the sale of the Pegasus spyware to the PGR.Pegasus seller pardoned for tax evasion
In fact, Balam Seguridad Privada became one of the intermediary companies that sold the controversial Pegasus software to the Peña government, developed by the Israeli company NSO , whose purpose is to infect cell phones through text messages to take control of the device, including its microphone and camera, and through which activists and journalists uncomfortable with power have been spied on. Asaf Zanzuri was in charge of obtaining the technologies with companies from his native country, while his Mexican partner Rodrigo Ruiz Treviño began his relations with the political elite.Balam and NSO
The Mexican company GB Solutions that provides technological security solutions to authorities and companies works together with different Israeli cyber companies: Verint Systems, BriefCam, Cellebrite and Skylock (by Avnon Group).GB Solutions Partners Skylock Partners
One of GB Solutions’ projects is the C5 CDMX – the Center for command, control, computing, communications and citizen contact of Mexico City.Global Business Solution GB Solutions Presentation Another projects is the C4 surveillance center in Tlajomulco, Mexico.Global Business Solution GB Solutions Presentation
Yaniv David Zangilevitch (EyeTech Solutions)
Zangilevitch is an Israeli former military officer, who did business in several Latin American countries, including Mexico, Argentina and El Salvador. He owns the companies Eyetech Solutions and Netblock Systems, which have sold hundreds of millions of pesos worth of surveillance technologies to the federal government and various local governments.Cyber espionage, the key for Tomás Zerón to flee to Israel
Eyetech Solutions distributes in Mexico material from various Israeli companies or companies connected to Israel, such as Circles (which was founded by Eric Banoun among others).Cyber espionage, the key for Tomás Zerón to flee to Israel
Eric Banoun (Cirlces, Carbyne)
Banoun was a sales manager at the Israeli company Nice Systems in 2008 and sold its systems to Mexico. After that, in 2010, he founded Circles (which later merged with NSO). Later he led the sales team at the Israeli company Carbyne, which installed in Mexico C5 centers in several states, such as Mexico City and Hidalgo. Banoun was also involved in other Israeli cyber-espionage companies, including Rayzone Group, Oxillon and Senpai.Cyber espionage, the key for Tomás Zerón to flee to Israel
As to reports, Samuel Weinberg was the partner of Felipe Calderón’s most trusted man, Genaro Garcia Luna. Weinberg was one of the main links in Mexico for Israel’s surveillance technologies – a position that Ansbacher held during Peña Nieto’s six-year term.Cyber espionage, the key for Tomás Zerón to flee to Israel Together they operated different companies. One of them was Nunvav Inc, which between 2015-2018 reported 127 imports of intelligence and cyber technologies, mainly manufactured by Elbit Systems.Cyber espionage, the key for Tomás Zerón to flee to Israel
Pegasus (by NSO Group)
As to many reports, Mexico was the first country to purchase the Pegasus spyware from the NSO Group, as early as 2011.Pegasus spyware: Mexico one of the biggest targets The Defense Ministry, the Attorney General’s office, and the national security intelligence service are all thought to have bought the software, which was then used by a Mexican company called KBH Track to turn the country into a spyware laboratory.Pegasus spyware, Israel and a massacre of Mexican students
NSO’s first two official clients in Mexico were two intelligence agencies, operating outside of judicial oversight. But the acquisition of Pegasus by the office of the Mexican Attorney General of the Republic, normalized the use of the software, targeting 15,000 people between 2014-2017 for potential spying. The key man in the judicialization of Pegasus is Tomas Zeron, appointed by Karam in 2013 to head the newly created Criminal Investigation Agency (AIC).
Politicians from every party, as well as journalists, lawyers, activists, prosecutors, diplomats, teachers, judges, doctors and academics, were also among the 15,000 individuals selected as possible targets for surveillance between 2016 and 2017, according to an investigation by a collaboration of international media outlets.Numbers of 15,000 Mexicans including politicians, journalists, judges, activists and teachers appear in leak
In 2017, several Mexican and international organizations collaborated to publish a report called “Gobierno Espía.” Over a year, researchers and activists worked to identify abusive infection attempts against journalists, lawyers, and anticorruption militants. They found more than 80 infection attempts by NSO spyware in Mexico between 2015 and 2016. The country has the highest number of documented software abuses.SPYING ON MEXICAN JOURNALISTS: INVESTIGATING THE LUCRATIVE MARKET OF CYBER-SURVEILLANCE
In 2016 and 2017 in was reported that Israeli spyware “Pegasus” was used by the Mexican government against healthcare activists, journalists, including threats made against them and their families based on the use of this technology, and the international expert commission investigating the disappearance of the 43 students from Ayozinapa.New York Times : Government Spyware Targets Mexican Journalists and Their Familie According to Forbidden Stories the phone of Mexican journalist’ Cecilio Pineda, who was assassinated in 2017 after revealing an alleged collusion between state and local police and the leader of a drug cartel, was selected as a target of an NSO client in Mexico a few weeks before he was killed. Forbidden Stories has been able to confirm that not just Pineda, but also the state prosecutor who investigated the case, Xavier Olea Pelaez, were selected as targets of Pegasus in the weeks and months before his murder.Forbidden Stories : Pegasus the new global weapon for silencing journalists
Mexico’s top security official said in 2021 that two previous administrations spent $61 million to buy Pegasus spyware.Mexico arrests businessman over alleged use of Israeli Pegasus spyware
In 2019, due to campaigning from Mexican civil society, president Obrador announced that his government will not contract with NSO Group.Mexican president says his government does not use Pegasus spyware, Reuters
According to reports from 2022, Mexico used the Pegasus spyware on journalists and human rights defenders as recently as 2021, after the country’s government swore it was no longer going to use the spyware.Mexico: reporters and activists hacked with NSO spyware despite assurances The report reveals that Raymundo Ramos, President of the Nuevo Laredo Human Rights Committee, Ricardo Raphael, journalist and writer, and a journalist from Animal Político were all targeted.Mexico: Army used Pegasus spyware against journalists and activists The journalists and a human rights defender were conducting investigations into serious human rights violations committed by the armed forces at the time they were targeted.Mexico: Army used Pegasus spyware against journalists and activists
The Hiding of Tomas Zeron de Lucio
Mexico’s former criminal agency chief Tomas Zeron de Lucio, allegedly involved in the deaths of 43 Mexican students in 2014, has been hiding out in Israel since September 2019 , according to reports by Calcalist, The New York Times and various Latin American media outlets.Why is Israel letting Mexico’s ex-crime chief hide here? – analysis
Zerón, was described in 2014 as “the final buyer” of cyber-surveillance systems, notably Pegasus. He’s currently wanted by Mexican authorities on embezzlement charges related to three contracts to acquire espionage equipment between 2013 and 2014, among other crimes.SPYING ON MEXICAN JOURNALISTS: INVESTIGATING THE LUCRATIVE MARKET OF CYBER-SURVEILLANCE
The reports imply that Israel is dragging its feet either because of negative diplomatic relations, the lack of extradition treaties between the countries, or a special arrangement that de Lucio has with the Israeli cyberdefense establishment. He is also wanted for questioning for his role in negotiating a deal for the purchase by Mexico of the Pegasus spyware from the Israeli company NSO Group. Mexico’s current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, says Zerón promoted the purchase and signed the relevant contracts to buy the spyware, though legal charges were not yet made and he is only wanted for questioning.‘Easier Than Convincing Israel to Extradite’: Mexico Negotiating With Fugitive Ex-official
According to a report by the Israeli newspaper “Calcalist” in July 2022 Zerón lived in Tel Aviv together with David Avital, a shareholder in (31%) in M.T.R.X Technologies from the Israeli intelligence and cyber group Rayzone. Rayzone, as previously revealed in a Calcalist investigation, is active in Mexico.The wanted Mexican that is hiding out at the luxury home of the Rayzone group entrepreneur
Usage of Israeli Arms
Aircraft – Historically, during the Mexican ‚Dirty War‘ Israeli Arava planes were reportadly used to disappear prisoners by the Mexican military dropping them into the sea.The Song of the Guerrilla, John Ross, July 2009, CounterPunch
Small Arms – More recently, of the 23,000 small arms sold to Mexico by Israel, 16,442 were Galil or Tavor assault rifles – fully and semi-automatic military grade assault rifles used by Mexican police everywhere from Mexico City, to Guanajuato (2,766 arms) and Guerrero (2,039 firearms). In Veracruz, state police allegedly carried out death squad operations in 2013 and 2014 that killed at least 15 people, mostly youths. I.W.I. sold 1,199 rifles to state police in Veracruz during 2011-2014. Beyond the use of these arms by police, many of them have ended up in the hands of cartels. Over 2,600 of these assault rifles were delivered to Tamaulipas, Guerrero, and Jalisco, states that account for 60% of illegal weapons confiscations in Mexico. Of the approximately 61,000 illegal firearms recovered by the Mexican army from 2010 to May 2020 for which the manufacturer was identified, 41 were I.W.I. weapons (including 12 in Michoacan, 3 each in Veracruz and Guerrero, and 6 in Tamaulipas).Stop US arms to Mexico : Deadly Trade, Final Report
Pegasus – see Pegasus Chapter.
K6 – Heavy Mortar 120mm in use by Mexican artillery units.
Human Rights Violations
It is estimated that 98% of the crimes committed in Mexico remain unsolved. This impunity translates into groos human rights violations committed by both state and non-state actors.HRW world report 2020 Mexico Mexico experienced more than 276,000 murders from 2006 through 2019. The discovery of mass graves in Mexico has become common: authorities have reported 3,631 since 2006. Some 73 thousand people are registered as missing in Mexico, more than 56,000 disappeared in the last decade. As of November 2020, more than 37,000 bodies remain unidentified. 70% of these murders were done with small arms, and the violence has forcibly displaced more than 346,945 people since 2006.Stop US Arms to Mexico : Deadly Trade Final
Torture of detanees by police and military is widespread in Mexico, with 64% of prisoners saying they have experienced some kind of physical violence while detained. Journalists critical of the government are particulerly at risk: between 2000-2018, 148 journalists were killed, and 21 more disappeared (2005-2018).HRW world report 2020 Mexico