Mexico barred US overflights to track suspected spy balloon
Mexico City, May 3 (EFE).- Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Wednesday that his administration refused a request for United States military aircraft to enter Mexico’s airspace to track a suspected spy balloon.
“The Pentagon spoke to the defense (secretariat) to ask permission because they wanted to enter our airspace with planes and drones of a high technological level because they had detected a balloon that came from Hawaii and was going to pass over Mexico and they assured us that it was a balloon that came from Asia,” the president said during his daily morning press conference.
“So the response was: no, we don’t permit the entry of those drones and those aircraft,” Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, said.
Instead, he added, Mexico’s military told the Pentagon, “let’s agree, send us the information and we have equipment to carry out the monitoring. And in fact an operation was carried out with planes and drones.”
Authorities expected the balloon to be over the Pacific coast port of Manzanillo at 3:00 am Monday and continue eastward to the Gulf of Mexico.
“The hour passed, but we didn’t detect anything, nor did they (the US) inform us about what they may have seen,” AMLO said.
The episode followed the Pentagon’s downing of a Chinese balloon on Feb. 4 off the coast of South Carolina. The balloon was shot down after passing over much of the US from northwest to southeast.
Washington claims the balloon carried surveillance gear, while Beijing insists it was conducting meteorological research.
In the immediate aftermath of that incident, the US military shot down three more balloons that officials later acknowledged were not of foreign origin.
AMLO described Mexico’s relationship with the US as “cooperation, yes; subordination or submission, no.”
Mexico’s negative response to the overflight request came against the backdrop of revelations via intelligence leaks that the Pentagon was reporting on tensions between branches of the Mexican armed forces. EFE ppc/dr