The Russians in Mexico

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It is an open secret that Russia abuses the diplomatic figure to infiltrate spies, especially in times of war.

There are things that happen in front of our eyes and we do not see them. It is part of the normalization in which we live as a society. An example is the increase in Russian diplomatic personnel in Mexico after the invasion of Ukraine, in the context of its political and military expansion in Latin America. The first alarm was sounded in March of last year by General Glen VanHerck, head of the Northern Command, at a hearing in the United States Senate Armed Services Committee. “Mexico currently has the largest number of spies in the world,” he stated. The reactions here were petty. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that Mexico was an independent and sovereign country, and that was it. To something else.

But not all paid attention to him. In April of last year, the veteran Mexican correspondent in Washington, Dolia Estévez, took up VanHerck’s testimony, stressing that Mexico’s position in the face of the invasion was not perceived in Washington as neutral, but rather favorable to Russia and President Vladimir Putin, and that Due to the easy interconnection and access with the United States, Mexico was a perfect place for Russian espionage, whose number of agents, managed from the embassy in Tacubaya, had grown in a matter of weeks, to 49, less than the 73 in Canada, but more than the 46 –not counting those consulted– from the United States.

Estévez deepened her investigation. Last May he revealed that in the following months, the Russian embassy accredited 36 new diplomats, bringing them to 85. The number does not say much, but the almost 60 percent increase in Russian diplomats in our country has no justification, nor precedent, and was processed by the Mexican embassy in Moscow and authorized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The jump in the number of Russian diplomats in Mexico did not raise eyebrows or prompt requests for explanations from the then Foreign Relations Secretary, Marcelo Ebrard. It passed smoothly, despite the fact that in Estévez’s revelations she recalled that it is an open secret that Russia abuses the diplomatic figure to infiltrate spies, especially in times of war. The story is old. At the time of the Cold War, the United States had the second largest CIA station in the world in Mexico, only after Vienna, the Austrian capital, which was the West’s gateway to the communist world.

Vienna and Mexico City were postwar Casablancas, where communist intelligence services fought their American and Western counterparts. Intelligence and counterintelligence was, and still is, the name of the game, where Mexico had come to play a leading role since 1956, when a defector identified the spies of the KGB and the GRU –the military intelligence service– in Canada, which led to a mass eviction. Harry Rositsky, who for 25 years directed the CIA’s covert operations against the Soviet Union, told me in the late 1970s at his home in Middleburg, Virginia, where he lived in retirement, that Mexico had become his new base of operations, following damaging revelations made by Igor Gouzenko, a decoder at the embassy in Ottawa, who turned himself in to the Canadian government.

The head of the KGB office in Mexico at the time was Oleg Netchiporenko, who had arrived in 1961, and who operated the spy network from an office located on the third floor of the embassy, considered one of the five most important, outside Soviet territory, according to a file declassified by Cisen obtained by Newsweek en Español. Netchiporenko effectively intertwined for a decade with the intelligence services of the United States and the West, where there were deaths on Mexican soil and regular use of a column signed with a pseudonym in Excelsior, where orders were transmitted to Russian spies.

As long as Mexico only lent its territory and no intelligence agency interfered in internal affairs, the government only watched and tolerated them. But in 1971 the support that the KGB was giving to the armed movements that flourished during the government of Luis Echeverría was detected, and he began to expel them, including the head of the KGB. Since then, despite the fact that the espionage activity of all the services that are respected in the world continued to do so, there had not been a moment like the current one.

John Feeley, retired ambassador and an expert in Mexico, where he worked for several years, commented to Estevez, regarding the sudden increase in Russian personnel in this country, that “the number of Russian diplomats in Mexico would not make any sense if what they were doing were traditional embassy duties. Spies almost always have diplomatic cover.” The increase in spies coincided with the arrival in Mexico of the new Russian ambassador, Nikolai Sofinskiy, who in his first message invited Mexico to join the “Russian concept of multipolar order.”

The Russian embassy in Mexico sought to discredit Estévez on social networks, but never denied the substance of his work: the unusual increase in Russian personnel in Mexico. Not even with the open Russian intervention, seeking censorship for the journalist, did the subject jump to the interest of the Mexican public. But in Washington, Mary Anastasia O’Grady of The Wall Street Journal recorded it. In her weekly column on Latin America on Monday, she spoke of Mexico as the main platform for Russian espionage in the region, being “an especially valuable target.”

O’Grady revealed that Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council and one of President Putin’s most trusted advisers, leads a dark chain of espionage to undermine the interests of the United States, in a strategy to destabilize Western democracy in Latin America, the dream of both in the search for the restoration of the old Russian power in the world, which passes through Mexico, whether we want to see it or not.

By Raymundo Riva Palacio

Source: El Financiero