Global Politics

The US spied on Mexico's leaders? So what else is new?

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Credit: Jorge Silva/Reuters

Former Mexican president Felipe Calderon.

There were more revelations over the weekend of the NSA spying on friendly countries. This time, France and Mexico were the targets. The same NSA surveillance used to intercept the emails of Mexican drug cartels was used to hack into the emails of Mexico's president.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

New information leaked to the German publication Der Spiegel showed that the U.S. was spying on former Mexican president Felipe Calderon since 2010. The new revelation comes just weeks after a leak about NSA spying on the current Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, while he was campaigning for office.

Is the Mexican government up in arms?

Well, sort of.

While the French forcefully called on the US ambassador to explain the spying, Mexico's response to Sunday's news has been rather mild mannered. It arrived as a strongly-worded email.

Freelance journalist Franc Contreras says this tepid response is due to the huge economic ties between the countries. "We know that the Mexican economy would absolutely collapse without strong relations with the United States," says Contreras. "80% of everything Mexico exports to the world is going to the United States, so the trade ties are tremendous."

And Contreras says Mexicans weren't surprised to learn that the US was spying on their country. "The United States used Mexico City back in the days of the Cold War," relates Contreras. "[Mexico] was the major spy hub in Latin America for the United States government."

And more recently, Contreras says Mexico's government took a lesson from the US Patriot Act and created laws that let it do the same sort of email spying on its own people. 

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