Washington, Nov 30 (efe-epa).- The United States’ Treasury Department on Monday imposed sanctions on a Chinese technology company, accusing it of supporting efforts by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s administration to target the political opposition.
The action was taken against China National Electronics Import & Export Corporation (CEIEC), a Chinese government-owned defense company.
“Today, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated CEIEC for supporting the illegitimate Maduro regime’s efforts to undermine democracy in Venezuela, including its efforts to restrict Internet service and conduct digital surveillance and cyber operations against political opponents,” that agency said in a press release.
CEIEC and other Chinese technology companies “continue to challenge democratic values of freedom and transparency by developing and exporting tools to monitor, censor and surveil citizens’ activities on the Internet,” it added.
The Maduro administration’s reliance on entities like CEIEC to advance its “authoritarian agenda” further illustrates “the regime’s prioritization of power over democratic values and processes,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was quoted as saying.
The Chinese company has been supporting the Venezuelan government’s “malicious cyber efforts” since 2017, the press release said, adding that “CEIEC has provided software, training and technical expertise to Venezuela government entities, which was then used against the people of Venezuela.”
Treasury said the Chinese company has provided cyber support and technical experts to state-run Venezuelan National Telephone Company (CANTV), a state-run telecommunications provider that controls 70 percent of Internet service in Venezuela.
The suite of software and hardware the CEIEC has provided to Venezuela is a commercialized version of China’s “Great Firewall,” a system used nationwide in the Asian country to block websites and control the information that Chinese citizens can access from abroad.
That system also prevents the internal dissemination of content deemed undesirable by Chinese authorities.
In the case of Venezuela, “the Maduro regime has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to suppress its citizens’ democratic rights, intimidate them from expressing their political views or overwhelm their voices using technology-enabled means,” the press release said.
It added that Venezuela’s online, independent newspapers are frequently blocked by CANTV, as are live-streamed speeches by the “interim government.”
The US and dozens of other countries accuse Maduro of maintaining power through fraudulent elections and recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state; roughly two-thirds of United Nations member-states, however, continue to recognize Maduro’s government.
As a result of Monday’s action, all property and interests in property of CEIEC that are in the US or in the possession or control of US persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.
Furthermore, all dealings by US persons or within the US involving any property or interests in property of CEIEC are prohibited.
Monday’s action was the latest move targeting China by President Donald Trump’s administration.
Over the nearly four years of the Republican’s presidency, he has started a trade war with Beijing, accused the Asian giant of manipulating its currency and carried out an international campaign against Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, including urging allied countries to exclude it from supplying 5G telecom equipment because of alleged cyber security risks. EFE-EPA