Former Vice President Says Salvadoran Police Used Pegasus in Georeference

The former vice president of El Salvador and secretary of the opposition Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), Óscar Ortiz, said Monday that the police in his country used the Pegasus program in the past to "georeference" and not for espionage.

Ortiz, vice president between 2014 and 2019 during the government of Salvador Sánchez Cerén, said in an interview on La Tribu radio that Pegasus "wine from Mexico".

"The Government already had it, it used it for the entire georeference issue" indicated and added that the version "normal" I was "within the police budget".

When asked by one of the presenters if "with that Pegasus you couldn’t spy on journalists"Ortiz said that "no, because it is also prohibited".

This statement comes weeks after an investigation verified by Amnesty International (AI) indicated that the smartphones of more than thirty journalists and human rights activists from El Salvador were compromised with this software, created by the Israeli technology firm NSO Group.

Ortiz stressed that he knows "so so" said program, because in the "Government, we were already there, but it is a police program to generate greater effectiveness in the reaction capacity" with "georeferenced information".

"One thing is that, but another is that you start spying on people"Ortiz added and pointed out that "I imagine that with a totally illegal scheme they began to spy on half of humanity, especially journalists".

Ortiz affirmed that the use that was supposedly given to "It has nothing to do with what they have done"referring to the current government, "what is to open the listening floor".

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The Secretary of Communications of the Executive of Nayib Bukele, Sofia Medina, affirmed in a statement in January that the "Government of El Salvador is in no way related to Pegasus and is not a client of NSO Group".

assured that "the Government of El Salvador is investigating the possible use of Pegasus and other systems to intercept telephones in the country".

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In mid-January, AI said it verified the "use of the Pegasus program for surveillance of journalists" and human rights activists in El Salvador.

"A joint investigation by Access Now and Citizen Lab has identified the large-scale use of NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware against journalists and members of civil society organizations in El Salvador."The agency said in a press release.

In reaction to Ortiz’s statement, Access Now noted on Twitter that "we want to know the amounts and see the purchase papers" of the program.

The investigation verified by AI indicates that it was possible to confirm "35 cases of journalists and members of civil society whose phones were successfully infected with Pegasus spyware between July 2020 and November 2021".

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