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A spying scandal and the fate of Western Sahara : NPR

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Diplomatic relations between Spain and Morocco are tense after it was revealed that the telephone of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez had been hacked with the adware Pegasus.



ADRIAN FLORIDO, HOST:

There’s one other spy scandal involving Pegasus, the Israeli adware that is been used to hack telephones world wide – this time in Spain, the place it was discovered on the telephone of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez. There are indicators that this could possibly be linked to a long-standing stress with Morocco over a disputed territory in North Africa.

Right here to speak us via this tangled net of espionage and geopolitics is Jose Bautista. He is an investigative journalist based mostly in Madrid. Jose, welcome.

JOSE BAUTISTA: Hello. My pleasure.

FLORIDO: Let’s begin with the spying. Why are there suspicions that Morocco might have been concerned in putting in this adware on the Spanish prime minister’s cellular phone?

BAUTISTA: Final 12 months, a community of journalists known as Forbidden Tales – they printed an ideal investigation exhibiting that Morocco spied on greater than 10,000 gadgets and telephones utilizing Pegasus. 2 hundred numbers – 200 telephones the place Spanish telephones – you already know, together with politicians, journalists, human rights activists.

FLORIDO: Why would Morocco need to spy on the federal government of Spain?

BAUTISTA: Properly, to begin with, in Could and June of final 12 months, when the Spanish authorities was being spied with Pegasus, Spain and Morocco have been having its worst diplomatic disaster in latest historical past – the worst. Why? As a result of Morocco is in conflict at this second towards Entrance Polisario (ph), which is a gaggle preventing for the self-determination of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony in Africa, and this territory is now below management of Morocco.

FLORIDO: OK, so we’d like some background right here. Western Sahara is a disputed territory bordering southern Morocco. It is largely managed by Morocco, however separatists there have been preventing for independence for many years. So why is there stress between Morocco and Spain about what occurs in Western Sahara?

BAUTISTA: Properly, really, by the top of 2020, December, President Donald Trump introduced on Twitter that the U.S. was recognizing Morocco’s sovereignty on Western Sahara. It was the primary time the U.S. has accomplished this step. And, you already know, the – what we name the butterfly impact – a little bit resolution by President Donald Trump just a few days earlier than leaving the White Home has modified utterly the diplomatic relations on this a part of the world. So someway, Morocco now feels its momentum to get management over the territory to desert negotiations.

FLORIDO: Spain had traditionally taken a fairly impartial stance on the independence of Western Sahara from Morocco, nevertheless it not too long ago introduced its assist for a plan by Morocco to present Western Sahara some autonomy on home points. Are there any particulars about what motivated this transformation?

BAUTISTA: Properly, sure, really, the Spanish authorities was determined to have – to carry again its good relation with Morocco. And the worth Spain – or the Spanish authorities was going to pay – effectively, you’ll be able to see. Spain is now supporting the place of Morocco as a substitute of supporting the impartial place that traditionally not solely Spain, but in addition different nations have defended.

FLORIDO: Why is the destiny of Western Sahara so necessary to Spain and different nations?

BAUTISTA: Western Sahara was the final Spanish colony. And it was greater than a colony. It grew to become a province. So the – each populations, the Spanish and the Sahrawi individuals – they’re very shut due to historic ties and likewise due to how shut these societies are.

FLORIDO: Has the Biden administration taken a stance on this problem or shifted its stance since?

BAUTISTA: Donald Trump determined to acknowledge Morocco’s sovereignty on Western Sahara in alternate for Morocco recognizing Israel. And so Biden, initially, when he got here to the White Home, some individuals thought that he would reverse Trump’s resolution, however he did not.

FLORIDO: Properly, now we have now this adware twist within the story. Does it have the potential to shake up this settlement between Morocco and Spain on Western Sahara’s future?

BAUTISTA: I believe so. We nonetheless need to see if the federal government or any official supply can affirm the origin of this spy faction with Pegasus, however it’ll be problematic for positive.

FLORIDO: That was Madrid-based investigative journalist Jose Bautista. Jose, thanks for becoming a member of us.

BAUTISTA: Thanks.

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