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China-style social credit system comes to Venezuela with 'Homeland Cards'

Chinese telecom giant ZTE at the heart of the new "Homeland" monitoring system, possibly violating international sanctions in deal with Venezuela's telecom company CANTV

Xi Jinping and Nicolas Maduro, Sept. 2018

Xi Jinping and Nicolas Maduro, Sept. 2018 (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – In a manner similar to China’s existing social credit system, the Venezuelan government is reportedly preparing to introduce new smart ID cards capable of tracking and punishing its citizens.

It was reported on Thursday, Nov. 15 that Venezuela, under the failing socialist government of Nicolas Maduro, is preparing to introduce a “Carnet de la Patria" ("Homeland Card").

The Chinese telecom giant ZTE is reportedly the primary support for the program, and will assist in producing these “Homeland Cards” by supplying the relevant technology to monitor them.

Reuters reports that the Maduro government has invested US$70 million in the program and hired ZTE to build a “homeland database” and to develop a mobile payment system for the cards.

In the failing socialist state, the introduction of such a database and payment system is ringing alarm bells among human rights groups, because they suspect the system is likely to be abused by the government to reward party loyalists.

The database will reportedly control access to state-subsidized food assistance programs, healthcare programs, and even fuel purchases through the “Homeland Card.”

Hector Navarro, one of the founders of the ruling Socialist Party, and a former advisor under Chavez, who is now out of favor with Madruo says that “Venezuelans with the cards now have more rights than those without.”

Maduro made a visit to China in September of this year to petition Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party for financial support to keep his government from collapsing.

Months later, the scope of ZTE’s involvement in the campaign to ramp up social monitoring is becoming clear. Alarmingly, a team from ZTE has been firmly embedded into Venezuala’s state-run communications company, CANTV, which will be tasked with overseeing the “homeland database.”

The president of CANTV, Manuel Fernandez, is reportedly on a list of sanctioned individuals by the U.S. Treasury Department, for internet censorship in Venezuela, reports Reuters.

ZTE has already been under intense scrutiny by the U.S. government, over the past two years, and was set to face major penalties, but ultimately received a reprieve from the Trump administration.

However, as more information comes to light about the company’s operations in Venezuela, they may once again face the threat of major penalties if found to be in violation of more international sanctions.