Eyes And Ears Everywhere

 The headline from Caracas Chronicles tells us something that all of us that lived there always suspected, “The Maduro Administration Is Spying On Everyone”. I guess we should have known given the pervasive murals with just a pair of eyes…the eyes of Hugo Chavez…watching us.

 A transparency report by Telefonica, Spanish telecom giant and parent of Movistar Venezuela, revealed indiscriminate and massive interceptions of private communications of their Venezuela subscribers, by order of government security agencies. In other words, they’re tapping phones by order of Chavismo. They’re also monitoring SMS text messages and GPS locations.

 They intercepted and/or monitored communications from over 20% of Movistar telephone/internet accounts. In other countries in the region these interventions don’t even get close to 1%. Interceptions of this nature are meant to be a tool to investigate serious crimes, not a license to systematically abuse due process. Data from other telephone/internet service providers is unknown as they don’t publish transparency reports but we must assume they are similar or worse (one of the most popular providers, Movilnet, is owned by the government).

 The Telefonica report matches multiple reported cases, including one by Caracas Chronicles where a  Venezuela Human Rights NGO was the victim of “unauthorized access” and many cases of Caracas Chronicles alerting journalists and civil society actors. Journalists and their sources, political figures, Human Rights defenders, and activists should only use encrypted means of communication.

 The rate of interceptions is 7 times what it was in 2016. Telefonica says that unlike most countries where requests for interceptions are through judicial order, in Venezuela they come from police, military, and intelligence bodies. For perspective on Venezuela’s over 20% number, Mexico, Ecuador, and Colombia were all 0.0%, Chile and Argentina were 0.05%, with Peru at 0.03% and Brazil the highest at 0.28%

 Venezuela law requires validation of courts for interventions. The abuse of obtaining communications metadata (who, when, how long, how often, location, etc.) is also widespread and conforms to no set of standards, international or otherwise. Typical standards are : A legitimate goal, Necessary, Proportional, Adequately supported by laws, Performed under judicial order, and Ensuring due process. Website blocking is also pervasive on orders by CONATEL, the National Telecommunications Commission.

 Venezuelans must assume any unencrypted communications can be tapped, their internet monitored, and should use VPN for access to blocked networks. In my 12 years living in Venezuela I always wondered about this. Then I would think, “I’m nobody. Why would they want to monitor me?” The answer is, because they can, and under Chavismo, if they can they will.

 And what would a news day be without something on our “mystery flight”? Merco Press reports that the cell phone belonging to our boy, Ghasemi, the “mistaken identity” …oops…no, he really was the guy, contains pictures of him (much younger) in the uniform of the Iranian Al Quds Revolutionary Guard. There were also images of tanks, missiles, and a flag emblazoned with “Death To Israel”. This may not have an effect on Ghasemi’s case (he’s been charged with terrorism) but it certainly won’t help.

 Then we have Morning Star …”Studying the Venezuela Approach to Learning”. He equates the “Bolivarian” approach to education with the “Bolivarian” approach to poverty.Aside from the fact that the Chavistas transformed schools into ideological indoctrination factories, why would anyone trying to make a point bring up the “Bolivarian” approach to poverty? Under 21st Century Bolivarian Socialism the poverty rate has gone from 50% to over 95%.

 And Decrypt tells us that the cryptocurrency exchange Uphold has shut off Venezuela due to the complexity of US sanctions compliance.They will return when conditions change.

 And we have The State reporting that a former ally of Hugo Chavez, ordered arrested by Nicolas Maduro, pleaded guilty in Miami to taking $3.8 million in bribes. He’s cooperating with authorities investigating widespread corruption involving PDVSA (government-owned oil company) joint ventures and the steering of contracts to benefit officials in the socialist government and the military.

 Then we have Insight Crime telling us that Tren del Llano, one of Venezuela’s first mega-gangs, is next up on the government’s “hit list”….just like the gang of “El Koki”.

 And we have Holland and Knight telling us that, in lieu of official government figures (not published) here are some growth estimates for the first half of the year in Venezuela : UN Economic Commission – 5%, Credit Suisse – 20% (?), Andres Bello Catholic University – 8.6%, IMF (International Monetary Fund) – 1.5%, VOF (Venezuela Observatory of Finance) – 8%, and Ecoanalytica – 8%. There was also information on BCV’s (Venezuela Central Bank) efforts to control the rise in the bolivar to US dollar exchange rate and the situation with bank reserves and the new financial transaction tax (tax on the use of foreign currency and cryptocurrency) but it was such a mess I thought my head would explode so I’ll keep it to myself.

 Then we have Digital Journal telling us that, Fabiana Rosales, wife of interim president, Juan Guaido, met with Joe and Jill Biden. She “spoke out for all Venezuelans”. Sorry but that’s all I’ve got.

 Digital Journal also reports that Venezuela has sentenced 24 military officers for mutiny related to the 2019 uprising that nearly ousted Nicolas Maduro (it was ooohhh so close). Sentences ranged from 7 years to 15 years. Allegations of mistreatment and torture have been widespread.

 Then we have Amnesty International reporting that the two Human Rights activists being sued by Carabobo governor, Rafael Lacava, (we love this guy simply because of his obsession/ fascination with Dracula) have reached an agreement with him. He drops the suit and they clarify that their calls for accountability on the dramatic rise in extrajudicial killings is not targeted at the governor.

 More tomorrow….



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