“China’s Digital Authoritarianism” Tailored To Venezuela

Anyone who believes that privacy exists in Venezuela through email, Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram communications “is wrong, all those tools are totally intervened,” Anthony Daquin, former adviser at computer security matters of the Ministry of Justice of Venezuela. It ensures that the model of social control of China that Hugo Chávez envisioned is fully implemented. Daquin participated between 2002 and 2008 in the delegations sent by Chávez to China to learn about a mechanism to identify Chinese citizens and implement it in Venezuela. Finally, in 2016, the Chinese company ZTE developed the system known as the Patria Card, questioned as a mechanism to exercise “citizen control”. Anthony Daquin, an engineer and consultant on computer security issues, went into exile in the United States after warning of the dangers of the system that Venezuela was seeking to emulate from China. He says that in recent years, China’s role has been to provide technology and technical assistance to help process large amounts of data and monitor people the government considers enemies. “They have television camera systems, fingerprints, facial recognition, word algorithm systems for the internet and for conversations,” says Daquin, who considers that the pair that exists “between Venezuela and China in espionage is at all levels.” . The former Venezuelan government official assures that there are very few secure electronic platforms to communicate in Venezuela. “If I can mention, one of them is Signal, it is one of the tools that has cost them a lot to intervene,” he says. One aspect that Daquin highlights is that the digital surveillance structure is divided into 5 rings, with “ring 5 being the most trusted, 100 percent supervising personnel from China.” According to Daquin, with the daily reports that the government receives on monitoring activities, decisions are made that lead to media censorship, internet outages or arbitrary arrests are carried out. The US accusations to Chinese companies The Chinese technology companies, ZTE, Huawei and CEIEC operate in Venezuela, the latter was sanctioned in 2020 by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the State Department of the Treasury United because they consider that the training and technical experience given to government companies since 2017, helped the Maduro government in its “efforts to restrict internet service” and “carry out digital surveillance and cyber operations against political opponents.” The Senate Foreign Relations Committee also issued an alert in 2020. In a report titled “Big Brother, China Digital Authoritarianism,” the US legislators who make up this Committee denounced that China’s telecommunications companies lend themselves to “allow the digital authoritarianism around the world ”and take Venezuela as a case study. Specifically, the Committee mentions the existence of a team of ZTE employees within the facilities of the state telecommunications company CANTV that is in charge of managing the database. The document cites an investigation by the Reuters agency, according to which CANTV employees confirmed that through the system that administers the National Card, “dates of birth, family information, employment, income, properties, medical history, possession are collected. of properties, benefits received by the government, presence in social media, political affiliation and voting history in popular elections ”, the report details. In Venezuela, for a person who wishes to receive social benefits from the government, effectively access them, they must have the so-called “Card of the Fatherland.” “Maduro takes full advantage of Chinese hardware and services in his effort to control Venezuelan citizens,” says the report of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Rough” and sophisticated internet blocks In dialogue with the , Luis Carlos Díaz, president of the “Internet Society” in Venezuela, assured that in his country the blocking of the internet to opponents or web portals “is very crude” and not they require nothing other than a government call to the operator to block a website or suspend a social network at certain times. However, in 2019 Venezuela blocked TOR, one of the most sophisticated systems globally used to avoid censorship. The platform enables a series of bridges for users to connect to different servers around the world. Venezuela and Cuba, among the 21 countries that most restrict internet access in the world The president of the “Internet Society” pointed out that, unlike the recurring blockades in Venezuela, the TOR cut-off did require a job with a higher level of knowledge. “There we raised alerts because it was excessively serious. It meant that the Venezuelan government was using some kind of technology similar to that used in China to block users who had TOR, a tool used to circumvent censorship. ” The TOR blockade lasted for a week, and Díaz doubts that the Venezuelan government has done it itself, because he considers that it does not have “highly trained people” for this type of technically complex blockades. The case of Cuba Internet infrastructure in Cuba was acquired from Chinese companies. The Swedish organization Qurium, in a report published at the beginning of 2020, assured that the presence of an HTTP, a protocol for accessing web pages, associated with Huawei’s eSight network management software, was detected on the Cuban internet. Its purpose is to help filter searches on the web, according to this organization. On the island, to access government-censored pages, people should use a VPN connection, which tricks the system into believing that the user is in another country. However, in “Cuba few people master this technique” and this “is the only way to enter the blocked web,” explains the journalist, Luz Escobar, who converts the informative content into PDF or newsletters format, to send them by email to users of the digital medium 14yMedio, whose web platform cannot be viewed freely in Cuba. In 2017, the Open Network Interference Observatory, known by its acronym in English OONI, carried out an investigation on the state of internet censorship in Cuba. At the time they found that the software for the island’s public Wi-Fi portals “had been developed by a Chinese company because they left comments on the source code in Chinese. “We also found a wide use of Huawei equipment,” Arturo Filastó, project leader of OONI, told the , who traveled to Cuba to document internet censorship on the island, testing the different Wi-Fi connection points provided by La Voz de América sought explanations from government entities in the 3 countries in question, Cuba, Venezuela and China, but did not obtain responses from any of them until the time of publication of this article. According to the 2021 report of “Freedom House “On internet freedom, Cuba and Venezuela are only two of the clients of Chinese technology companies in the world and at the same time, they are the governments that most block access to the web in Latin America. Without internet freedom and trained in China Seminars from China to countries with an “authoritarian tendency” The issue of “digital authoritarianism” has already been documented since 2018 by the report on internet freedom of the organization “Freedom House”. assures that officials of the government of Venezuela, together with representatives of the governments of Saudi Arabia and Syria, among 36 other countries, participated in the trainings and seminars of the Chinese government on new media and information management. China has organized forums such as the World Internet Conference in 2017 “where it imparts its rules to authoritarian-leaning governments,” the report concludes. Justin Sherman, an expert in computer security for the Cyber ​​Statecraft initiative of the Atlantic Council, told the that Chinese companies such as Huawei, ZTE have “been involved throughout the world, not only in Venezuela, in the creation of internet censorship surveillance programs for governments, intelligence services and police agencies.” Sherman argues that There is no clear pattern as to whether Chinese companies sell their surveillance technology to authoritarian governments just to make money. The thesis of the 2020 Senate Relations Committee report is that there is an interest from China in going beyond the sale. of its technology services to extend its policy of “digital authoritarianism.” Connect with the ! Subscribe to our YouTube channel and activate the notifications es, or, follow us on social networks: Facebook, Twitter

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