Anonymous hackers block Mexico pope visit sites

Samuel Najera, spokesman for the Mexican Episcopal Conference, said its web page on the papal visit was blocked by “a cyber attack.”

“We have been aware of the threat that has been making the rounds on social networks, that was brought to fruition today,” Najera said. “This is part of a dynamic these days of a lack of safety and acts of intolerance toward certain groups.”

“For the moment, this does damage to the logistics” of the papal visit, Najera said.

The site contained information on the pope’s planned activities starting Friday in the north-central state of Guanajuato, which is governed by President Felipe Calderon’s National Action Party, or PAN.

The Anonymous IberoAmerica website, which has been a channel of communication for such hacker “ops” in the past, said the site crashes were the result of Anonymous operations with names such “Pharisee” and “freeloader.”

Anonymous Mexico said in a video posted on social media sites that the pope’s visit will cost Mexicans money that could be better spent on the poor, and is meant to support the PAN in the July 1 presidential election. PAN candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota is trailing front-runner Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party by at least 10 percentage points in most polls on the race.

The official campaign season starts at the end of this month.

The pope’s “visit comes precisely at the start of the electoral campaigns,” said the faceless Anonymous figure in the video. “The PAN will take this as a political weapon to win the votes of millions of Catholics in Mexico.”

Guanajuato is 93.8 percent Roman Catholic, the highest of any state in Mexico.

When asked about the timing of the pope’s visit, Calderon’s office released a March 11 press release noting that Calderon invited the pope in 2007.

Some people have also questioned the pope’s decision not to come to liberal Mexico City, where legislators have legalized abortion and gay marriage in the federal district. The Vatican has said the pope cannot be at high altitudes. Mexico City is about 7,300 feet (2,225 meters) above sea level.

Another website with information on where to stay in Guanajuato and how to attend papal events was also crashed. That site was registered to Juan Carlos Mata Ruiz and a group called NIC Mexico.

The website of the Guanajuato state government was also out of service Thursday, the state press office acknowledged, but it would not say whether that was a result of hacking or a cyber attack.

© 2012 The Associated Press.

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