Mexican military spied on activist documenting army killings

By March 23, 2023

Mexico City, Mexico —  A journalistic investigation from Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales (R3D), Artícle 19, and Social Tic revealed that the Mexican army spied on human rights defender Raymundo Ramos after the activist began following the case of 12 people allegedly murdered by the military in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. 

Reportedly the information illegally pulled from the activist’s phone with Pegasus spyware was used to hinder his investigation.  

According to the Canadian human rights organization Citizen Lab, the military targeted Ramos’ phone on different occasions between August and September 2020 after Ramos’ began documenting the execution of 12 people by the military. 

On July 3 2020 a violent clash between military troops and alleged members of “Tropa del Infierno” — an armed faction of the North Eastern Cartel — ended in the deaths of 12 alleged sicarios. 

As the head of the Human Rights Commission of Nuevo Laredo, Ramos reached out to the relatives of the 12 murdered. 

In the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA)’s surveillance report, “activities Raymundo Ramos,” the human rights defender contacted journalists from media outlets such as El País, Televisa, and El Universal. The latter would soon publish a report revealing that from the 12 murdered, three were civilians with no link with the cartel members, who were kidnapped and had their hands and feet bound at the time of their murder. 

The surveillance report by the military accuses Ramos of being involved with the Northeastern Cartel, accusing him of using his position as a human rights defender to attack the Ministry of National Defense. 

While the espionage report presents no evidence to support such claims, Ramos’s alleged link with drug cartels has been used multiple times to dismiss his work as an activist. 

During a morning press conference on March 15, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador defended his administration and the military, saying, “Intelligence is one thing, and espionage is another.” 

“So, now with this issue, the same thing, there they go because they do not accept, they do not believe me that we do not spy on anyone. Because how are they going to accept it? How are they going to believe me if they have already judged me: I lie, I am authoritarian, I am militarist. They already have that idea. It is a slogan,” he said. 

Currently, Ramos is supporting the families of five young men allegedly murdered by members of the military on February 28, again making him the target of accusations of attacking the armed forces on behalf of organized crime. 

Read more: Military allegedly murders five young men in Northwestern Mexico

However, the Undersecretary of Human Rights, Alejandro Encinas, has labeled the case as an egregious example of excessive use of force. 

“This was not a confrontation, regardless of who they were, they were executed,” said Encinas.