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Data leak exposes Mexico military corruption, including collusion with drug cartels

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Mexico is trying to come to terms with a data leak of more than 4 million documents from inside the military that has exposed some of the country's closest-kept secrets.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

NPR has obtained the documents, which includes everything from the health of the president to corruption among Mexico's military.

MARTINEZ: NPR's Eyder Peralta joins us now from Mexico City. Eyder, let's start with what was leaked. What have we learned about that so far?

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: We've learned a ton about the military. I mean, one of the big ones is that President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had to be airlifted to a hospital with a heart problem. Another document alleges that a top law enforcement officer was taking $250,000 a month to protect the cartel. But above all, this has revealed a ton about Mexico's military. We've learned that despite being tasked with fighting the drug war, some of its soldiers sold weapons to the cartels. We've learned that they suggested - that the military suggests legislation, that the military keeps statistics on murders and that they run surveillance on airports. We found that they keep dossiers on politicians and environmental activists, anarchists and feminists.

In one email, we found what military officials calls a counterintelligence operation against the bricklayers at a government project. There are millions of documents, as you said, but I think what is clear and what we find is that Mexico's military is involved in every major aspect of this country.

MARTINEZ: So what do we know about the group that leaked it?

PERALTA: So they call themselves the Guacamaya, or the Macaws. And they're anonymous, but they say that they're anti-colonial anti-capitalist environmentalists. And they've done similar things in other countries. But this hack is huge - 6 terabytes of data taken from the email servers of the Mexican Ministry of Defense. And it's one of the biggest leaks in history.

MARTINEZ: What has the government said about this? Because I've got to admit, Eyder, I'm not too shocked. What's been the reaction?

PERALTA: President Lopez Obrador has admitted that the documents were real, but he shrugged it off. The defense minister actually refused an invitation by Parliament to testify about this. But what's important to note is that this is coming at a time when this president has given the military a lot more power, and it comes when, through other reports, we've learned that the military was also involved in the killing of 43 college students in 2014. Yet the president continues to tell the Mexican people that the only institution that can be trusted is the military.

I spoke to political analyst Denise Dresser. And like you, she says that while none of this is a surprise to those who were paying attention, it's still about an institution that was supposed to fix things, and that's why these leaks are so hard to process. Let's listen.

DENISE DRESSER: There's still an element, I think, of false hope that if we continue to rely on the Mexican military, eventually some semblance of peace will emerge. What the leaks reveal is that perhaps there's already a level of collusion that can't be dismantled.

PERALTA: So the military, she says, the president and the Mexicans had put their faith in has turned almost all powerful, and it may just be as corrupt as the rest of the Mexican state. And that's really hard to come to terms with, she says.

MARTINEZ: NPR's Eyder Peralta in Mexico City. Eyder, thanks.

PERALTA: Thank you, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.