Over the past two decades, Israel has exported hundreds of millions of Euros worth of military equipment to Mexico, including various types of drones, naval battle ships, missiles and over 23,000 small arms.

Israel – Mexico Relations:

Politically, Mexico voted in favor of the Palestinians twice in the UN in 1975 and 1980. In 1978,[1] after a media and public storm against secret offices of the Israeli Aerial Industries in Israel, these were forced to close down. 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.[2]

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[3]. The countries also have about 10 more bi-lateral agreements covering cooperation on trade, drugs and narcotics trrafficking, culture, research, water technoladgies and more.

Military relations:

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.[4]

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 IndustriesGabriel 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. 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[5]. 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.

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.[6] 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.[7]

In 2016-17 we learned that Verint is not the only Israeli Surveillance technology company active in Mexico. Since 2011, at least three Mexican federal agencies have purchased about $80 million worth of an Israeli manufactured spyware by the name of Pegasus, made by NSO Group. The software infiltrates smartphones to monitor calls, texts, email, contacts and calendars.

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[8].

Most recently, 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.[9]

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[10].

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)[11].

Pegasus – 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[12]. In 2019, due to campaigning from Mexican civil society, president Obrador announced that his government will not contract with NSO Group[13].

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.[17]

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[14]. 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[15].

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)[16].

Sales Records Table:

Download as XLS.

Item Companies Involved System Country Date Deal Size Link
Deal for Orbiter UAV nad Skystar 300 surveillance blimp Aeronautics Skystar 300, Orbiter Mexico 16/2/2009 $22m
Using Texts as Lures, Government Spyware Targets Mexican Journalists and Their Families NSO Group Pegasus Mexico 2016-2017
Medigus Signed an Exclusive Agreement with Elbit Systems Land for the Distribution in Mexico of Pandemic Response Ventilators for COVID-19 Patients Elbit LifeCan (civilian) Mexico 15/5/2020
24,000 Israel small arms sold to Mexico 2006-2018 IWI Tavor, Galil, Jericho, Negev Mexico 9/12/2020 23 m euro
Mexico bought 2 Hercules planes Lockheed Martin (re-sold by israel) C-130E Hercules Mexico 2001 2 units
Mexico bought 3 Hawkeye planes from Israel Northrop (resold by Israel) E-2C Hawkeye Mexico 2002 3 units
Mexico bought two Saar 4.5 battle ships Israel Shipyards Aliya/Saar-4.5 Mexico 2003 2 units
Mexico bought 20 Gabriel-2 missiles IAI Gabriel-2 Mexico 2003 20 units
Mexivo bought 4 S-65 hellicopters (Yasur) Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation (Re-sold by Israel) S-65/Yasur-2000 Mexico 2004 4 units
2 Elbit system drones were sold to Mexico Elbit Hermes-450 Mexico 2008 2 units
ASIO Mexico 2013 3 units
Mexico bought two Dominator-2 drones Aeronautics Dominator-2 Mexico 2015 2 units
Mexico bought two Aerostar drones Aeronautics Aerostar Mexico 2017 2 units
Magal receives $1.5m order to protect sensitive installations in Mexico Magal Mexico 2003 1.5 m $
The US will use a verint system to fight crime in Mexico Verint Mexico, US 5/14/2012 2.9 m $