MEXICO CITY, April 18 (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Tuesday accused the Pentagon of spying on his government following leaks in U.S. media, and said he would begin classifying information from the armed forces to protect national security.
His comments came several days after the Washington Post reported on apparent tensions between Mexico’s Navy and the Army, citing a U.S. military briefing revealed in online leaks of secret U.S. military records.
“We’re now going to safeguard information from the Navy and the Defense Ministry, because we’re being a target of spying by the Pentagon,” Lopez Obrador told his daily news conference.
A Pentagon spokesman said the U.S. Department of Defense has a “strong collaborative defense partnership” with Mexico’s Army and Navy, and that the entities tackle common challenges “while respecting each other’s sovereignty and respective foreign policy agendas.”
The Pentagon has previously called the leak a “deliberate, criminal act.”
The Washington Post story said there was no indication the cited document came from intercepted communications of Mexican officials.
Lopez Obrador has come under pressure to hold the military accountable for years of alleged abuses, including reported disappearances and killings. Even so, he has increased the army’s role in public safety and sought to put the National Guard, a militarized police force, under Army control.
On Monday, Lopez Obrador had described the U.S. intelligence in the leaks as an “abusive, overbearing intrusion that should not be accepted under any circumstance,” adding that he did not plan to rebuke the U.S., but would at some point discuss “conditions for collaborative work.”
When presented on Tuesday with new allegations of the use of controversial spyware Pegasus during his government, he reiterated that his administration does not spy.
Prominent Mexico-based rights group Centro Prodh on Tuesday said two of its staff had their phones targeted by Pegasus last year, according to an analysis by Toronto-based digital watchdog Citizen Lab, becoming the latest of several alleged cases of Pegasus used during Lopez Obrador’s government.