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Enrique Peña Nieto (“EPN”)

Enrique Peña Nieto (“EPN”)
Born 20 July 1966, served as the 64th president of Mexico between 2012 and 2018 as a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

He also was Governor of the State of Mexico from 2005 to 2018. He is largely seen as one of the least popular presidents in Mexico’s history, with his approval rating being only 18% upon departure from office. His tenure was plagued with corruption, scandal, and violence. Most infamously, in 2014 forty-three students from Ayotzinapa were forcibly disappeared by the state and the EPN administration worked to cover up the incident. The tragedy resulted in a public and international outcry that fundamentally reshaped Mexican political discourse and heightened public discontent with violence, impunity, and government corruption. 

Having held power in Mexico for the vast majority of its modern history, the PRI is not an inherently right-wing party; it acts as a catch-all party and typically follows the ideology of its leader at the time. During his time in office, Peña Nieto operated as an institutionalist and a centrist, billed as “the new face of Mexico’s old rulers”. EPN reversed Mexico’s longstanding stance of support for the Palestinian cause. Mexico historically voted against Israel in the United Nations – but in 2016, Enrique Peña Nieto traveled to Israel, the first official visit from a Mexican president since 2000. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned the favor in 2017, visiting Mexico City as the first-ever Israeli prime minister to do so. During these years, Mexico gradually changed its votes on Palestine-related resolutions to abstentions.

This shift in policy has in part been attributed to Mexico's acquisition of Pegasus surveillance software from the Israeli cyberweapon firm NSO Group in 2011. Israel authorized the sale of the cyberweapon to Mexico, making Mexico the first state client to wield the software. Under EPN, Mexico spent about $300 million in government contracts with NSO Group alone. Mexico rapidly became NSO's largest state client, using its range of spyware technology to target journalists, dissidents, human rights lawyers, politicians from all political affiliations, and more. In 2021, when journalists identified over 50,000 phone numbers targeted by Pegasus for surveillance, investigators identified over 15,000 numbers selected by the Mexican government – by far the largest of any country. 

Tomás Zerón, the head of the Criminal Investigation Agency (AIC) under EPN, was a lead broker of NSO Group contracts and directed the use of Pegasus in the Attorney General’s office. Today, Zerón is evading corruption charges from the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador for his role in covering up the investigation of the Ayotzinapa 43, including using Pegasus to hack the phones of advocates for the victim’s families. Zerón has taken refuge in Israel  –  which has refused to extradite him to Mexico despite repeated requests to do so.