QuaDream used in Mexico
April 12, 2023
Citizen Lab has identified a previously unknown spyware with hacking capabilities comparable to NSO Group’s Pegasus. “Reign”, made by an Israeli company called QuaDream, has already been used by clients to target journalists, political opposition figures and an employee of an NGO, reports the Guardian.
The report, released in collaboration with researchers from Microsoft, did not identify the victims, but said they were from North America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The firm focuses specifically on infecting iPhones with spyware for government clients, reports Haaretz.
Citizen Lab located QuaDream system operators in Mexico, as well as Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ghana, Israel, Romania, Singapore, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Uzbekistan.
Mexico, which has a history of targeting human rights activists and journalists with malicious spyware, has been identified in media reports as a QuaDream customer. (Reuters)
An anonymous spyware industry source cited by TechCrunch alleged that QuaDream’s “system is the most important system in Mexico currently.”
Unlike NSO, QuaDream has almost no visible corporate presence and may avoid the need for export licenses by dealing through a reseller based outside Israel, reports the Washington Post. NSO needs clearance from the Israeli ministry of defense.
Ukraine and Brazil
Ukraine is increasingly desperate for weapons, but has been rebuffed by several non-NATO countries, particularly Brazil. “The countries’ denials are driven by a series of factors: domestic politics, internal policies that prevent them from arming countries involved in conflict and their reliance on Russia for crucial imports,” reports the New York Times.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has instead sought to create a group of countries that could mediate between Ukraine and Russia. Western countries are skeptical — though the initiative has been welcomed by French President Emmanuel Macron, reports Reuters.
Lula is in China this week, where the mediation plan is on the agenda for his talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday. A separate Chinese peace proposal presented in February contains aspects in common with Lula’s, such as ceasing hostilities and starting negotiations, reports the Associated Press.
The leaked Pentagon documents show that, according to U.S. intelligence in February, Russia’s Foreign Ministry supported Lula’s plan to “establish a club of supposedly impartial mediators to settle the war in Ukraine, believing the plan would reject the West’s ‘aggressor-victim’ paradigm.” (See yesterday’s post.)
Ecuador’s deadly violent crime crisis has been partially created by Balkin criminal groups that use the country as a cocaine transshipment hub, write Carolina Andrade, Mac Margolis and Robert Muggah in Americas Quarterly.
“Driving the deadly drug trade are emerging clusters of criminal networks, with global reach and ambitions. Reining in the violence will take nothing less; only a renewed commitment among local, national and regional authorities to foster interagency collaboration, cross-border cooperation, data-driven policies and intelligence can prevent Ecuador’s security crisis from becoming a regional emergency.” (Americas Quarterly)
Brazilian authorities arrested 15 people, seized 173 vehicles and a plane, and froze the bank accounts of 147 individuals and 66 companies — the culmination of Operation Hinterland, a two-year-long investigation coordinated by Brazilian, Paraguayan, and European law enforcement agencies. But the blow against regional interests, “is unlikely to fundamentally alter Paraguay's position within the cocaine trade,” warns InSight Crime.
A Greenpeace report found Hyundai’s excavators and other heavy machinery are being used by illegal miners in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, and activists are urging the South Korean conglomerate to ensure its excavators aren’t furthering environmental destruction and the Yanomami humanitarian crisis. (Guardian)
Thousands of Afghans are believed to have made their way to Mexico since August 2021, with plans to travel to the U.S. and claim asylum. But most remain stuck in limbos, waiting to see if they will be allowed into the U.S., reports the Guardian.
The United States and Cuba will hold another round of migration talks today in Washington, following a high-level meeting in Havana last November. (Reuters)
A severe fuel shortage has virtually paralyzed all public and private transportation in Cuba, reports El País. Mile-long “ghost lines” at gas stations await fuel from a tanker that hasn’t yet arrived.
Much of Colombia’s Chocó department — like other regions in the country — remains a battleground for armed groups that have proliferated since the 2016 FARC peace deal, and security continues to deteriorate, reports the New Humanitarian. The changing dynamics pose a deadly challenge for residents and aid workers.
Guatemalan public officials have limited competition in the upcoming June presidential election, most egregiously prohibiting Indigenous activist Thelma Cabrera and former human rights ombudsman Jordán Rodas from running. The maneuvering, “on top of broader anti-corruption rollbacks in Guatemala,” means the election is likely to cement Guatemala’s democratic backsliding, according to the Latin America Risk Report.
Mexico’s abandonment of daylight savings this year was glitchy — Rest of World
A tech workshop teaches Argentine prison inmates how to program video games — it’s training for future jobs, and also an outlet while they’re behind bars, reports Rest of World.
An encounter with Panama’s violet-capped hummingbird — Guardian