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Latam Brief: El Faro journalists sue NSO (December 1, 2022)

Latin Amercian Daily Briefing

A group of El Faro journalists filed a suit against the Israeli NSO group in a U.S. federal court, yesterday. The plaintiffs, 13 journalists and two other staff members, accuse the surveillance company of designing and deploying the spyware Pegasus to infiltrate the phones of 22 members of the Salvadoran news organization. The case was filed by the New York City-based Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. (El Faro)

A joint investigation released in January by Citizen Lab and Access Now found that between June 2020 and November 2021 the communications of 22 members of El Faro were targeted with Pegasus, an invasive spyware able to extract anything stored on a telephone device. The researchers found a close correlation between the days that each journalist was targeted and their investigative work, like reporting into the Bukele administration’s covert gang negotiations or the implementation of bitcoin.

This is the first time that journalists targeted by Pegasus file suit against NSO in U.S. court. NSO, which was blacklisted by the U.S. government last year, says it sells its spyware only to legitimate government law enforcement and intelligence agencies vetted by Israel’s Defense Ministry for use against terrorists and criminals. (Associated Press)

Many of the targeted individuals have been forced to flee El Salvador, and told New Yorker journalist Ronan Farrow that the Pegasus hackings had impaired their ability to work and maintain sources’ trust.

The Knight Institute lawyers “ also hope to clarify how existing laws apply to the digital threats to press freedom posed by the burgeoning, multi-billion-dollar spyware industry,” according to the New Yorker


  • The prominent Guatemalan investigative newspaper “El Periodico” announced that it is stopping its print edition, after the government arrested the paper’s president, José Rubén Zamora, in July. All of the paper’s reporters have been let go, and it is not clear how it can continue with digital editions only, reports the Associated Press.


  • Brazil’s Amazon lost an area roughly the size of Qatar, some 11,600 square kilometers, last year. The new data from Brazil’s space agency shows that deforestation slowed slightly last year, a year after a 15-year high. (Associated Press)

  • Brazilian president-elect Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s transition team is exploring a possible pact with the soy industry, aimed at stopping deforestation in the Cerrado savanna. The deal would be modeled on a successful 2006 agreement covering the Amazon, reports Reuters. Brazil’s farm industry and global commodities traders have previously resisted attempts to forge such a Cerrado pact.

  • The transition team’s public security chief, senator-elect Flavio Dino, said the incoming administration wants to create a new Federal Police unit focused on environmental crimes, reports Reuters.

  • A landslide in the Brazilian state of Paraná killed at least two people and left dozens missing, yesterday. (CNN)


  • The first tanker carrying Venezuelan oil to the U.S. could set sail this month, following a U.S. permit for Chevron to expand operations in Venezuela on Saturday, reports the Financial Times. (See Monday’s post.)

  • Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro called on the U.S. to further ease oil sanctions. Maduro linked the setting of electoral conditions — a key issue in recently resumed discussions in Mexico City with the political opposition — to U.S. policy toward Venezuela.  “Is it free elections that you want? Fair and transparent? Elections free of sanctions. They should remove all of them. Take them all away,” he said. (Bloomberg)


  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s massive march in Mexico City last weekend is a demonstration of ongoing political power, though the country’s political opposition seems to have found a point of unity in pushing back against the president’s electoral reform project, reports the Guardian. (See Monday’s post.)

  • Critics say the reform project endangers the independence of the national electoral institute, credited with dismantling the country’s decades-long single-party rule, reports the Los Angeles Times.


  • Cuba held municipal elections on Sunday — voter turnout was 69 percent, the lowest in decades according to preliminary government figures. The sharp drop in participation on Sunday versus the 2017 elections follows calls from Cuba’s political opposition to abstain from voting in protest of the administration of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, reports Reuters.

  • China, Russia, Algeria and Turkey have pledged to restructure Cuba’s debt, provide new trade and investment financing, and help ease an energy crisis, Díaz-Canel said, following visits to those countries. (Reuters)

Regional Relations

  • A U.S. government committee urged the Federal Communications Commission reject an undersea internet cable to connect Cuba to the United States. (Reuters)


  • Jamaican senators rejected a government petition to extend a two-week state of emergency enacted in seven parishes in, in an attempt to control rising crime linked to gang violence. Human rights groups have questioned the appropriateness of states of emergency to tackle homicides. (See yesterday’s Just Caribbean Updates.)


  • Brazilian Seleção coach Tite tracked down Husam Saffarini, a Palestinian-Jordanian who — unknowingly — helped carry his grandson home from a match last week. “Football gives us so many beautiful things,” Tite said. “I want to meet him because he showed a sense of solidarity that transcends football.” (Middle East Eye)

Jordana Timerman / Latin America Daily Briefing

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