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Mexican leader brushes off US allegations of Russia spies

MEXICO CITY (AP) – Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday brushed off comments by a senior United States (US) military official who said there are more Russian spies in Mexico than anywhere else in the world.

That was an apparent reference to Russia’s huge embassy in Mexico City, which has a decades-old reputation for being an espionage hub.

Responding to a question, López Obrador said Mexico was nobody’s colony and didn’t send spies abroad. But those were two things that head of US Northern Command General Glen VanHerck had not mentioned.

VanHerck said on Thursday before the US Senate Armed Services Committee that “the largest portion of the GRU members is in Mexico right now. Those are Russian intelligence personnel”.

The GRU is Russia’s main foreign military intelligence agency.

“Mexico is a free country, independent and sovereign, we are not a colony of Russia, China or the US,” López Obrador said. “We don’t go to Moscow to spy on anybody, nor do we go to Beijing to spy on what they are doing. We don’t go to Washington, not even to Los Angeles.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. PHOTO: AP

We don’t get involved in that,” he said.

Despite Mexico’s enormous commercial ties to the US, the country has traditionally tried to preserve a measure of independence and non-alignment in foreign policy, and many Mexicans have long seen Russia and Cuba as counterbalances to US dominance.

For example, members of Mexico’s Congress drew a rebuke from US Ambassador Ken Salazar this week when they formed a Mexico-Russia “friendship committee”. The idea of Mexico drawing closer to Russia or splitting with the US on the issue is something “that can never happen”, Salazar said.

A half dozen legislators from López Obrador’s Morena party joined almost 20 other allied Congress members on Wednesday in creating the committee almost a month after Russian troops invaded Ukraine.

Morena Congressman Armando Contreras Castillo said, “We are always ready to do everything we can to increase the friendship, relations and co-operation between Mexico and Russia in every aspect of the world and life.”

Mexico has refused to send any aid to Ukraine or impose sanctions on Russia, but did co-sponsor a United Nations resolution condemning the invasion.

The mansion that holds the Russian Embassy in Mexico City is far out of scale to the limited trade ties between the countries and has long been thought to be a hub for spies.