Bugging equipment found in Mexico lawmaker offices

A search of several Mexican lawmakers' offices turned up recording equipment, leading legislators to believe they have been spied on for years, a congressman said Wednesday.

Congressman Armando Rios said security personnel found microphones and other devices that seemed to have been installed years ago.

“Some of the equipment has newer technology, but other devices are from a long time ago, which leads us to believe they were installed years ago,” said Rios, a member of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD.

Rios said the offices of key committees and of several lawmakers from different political parties were bugged.

“What is at stake is the vulnerability of the legislature, of one of the powers of the union,” Rios said.

Congress president Guadalupe Acosta, also of the PRD, on Tuesday filed a complaint with federal prosecutors, who opened an investigation.

Acosta wouldn't identify the lawmakers who were being spied on or who he thinks was behind the espionage. Rios blamed the government of President Felipe Calderon, who belongs to the conservative National Action Party, or PAN.

Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire denied Rios' accusations and said the government has done nothing illegal.

Mexico's main intelligence agency allegedly spied on the government's political opponents during the 71 years of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

After PAN candidate Vicente Fox won the 2000 presidential election, he announced that the agency, the Center for National Security and Investigation, would no longer spy on political opponents. But in 2008, under Calderon, the agency hired a private company to monitor the activities of legislators.

Legislators complained they were being spied on but the government said it was simply collecting public information.

Several secretly recorded telephone conversations of government officials or politicians have been made public in Mexico in the last few years.

In 2006, the former governor of Puebla state, Mario Marin, was implicated in a revenge plot against a journalist after Mexican news media released a recorded telephone conversation. In it, he allegedly speaks with a businessman about punishing Lydia Cacho, who had written a book that accuses one of their acquaintances of being a child molester.

In 2010, a radio station broadcast a telephone conversation between then federal lawmaker Cesar Godoy and alleged drug trafficker Servando Gomez, known as “La Tuta.” In it, Godoy and Gomez express support for each other and discuss bribing a reporter.

Shortly after the recording was released, Godoy, who is now a fugitive, was charged with aiding drug trafficking and money laundering.

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