ARTICLE

Venezuelans Prepare For Chinese Big Brother Biometric ID/Social Credit System

News Image By Alexis Faber/Activist Post January 02, 2019
Share this article:

The Venezuelan government continues to tighten its grip on people's data and communications and has now partnered with Chinese company ZTE to develop a national biometric identification similar to China's social credit system.

When Reuters revealed in November 2018 that the Venezuelan government had contracted with the Chinese company ZTE to develop a national biometric identification system, public reactions were mixed.

The report stirred outrage both in Venezuela and internationally. But for those who have closely followed the Venezuelan government as it has tightened its grip on people's data and communications, the report represented another chapter in what has become a very long story.


The report confirmed suspicions and denunciations made months ago, increasing fears that the alliance with ZTE will bring Venezuela closer to the implementing a form of social credit score system similar to what is used in China. This system would determine which citizens have access to basic services based on their political allegiances. It also prompted the US government to initiate investigations into the role of ZTE in Venezuela.

What is the Fatherland Card Used For?

The Reuters story pointed to the participation of ZTE  in the development of a monitoring system whose primary tool is the "Carnet de la Patria", or Fatherland Card. This identification card captures multiple pieces of personal data coupled with a unique and personalized QR code. It also serves as a digital wallet within an electronic payment system.

The Fatherland Card has been strongly promoted by the government and is intended to facilitate multiple public services. The card can be requested voluntarily and free of charge. During this process, whoever wants to get a Fatherland Card must answer questions about their social and economic status.

Those who have the card gain access to food and medicine, which have become dangerously scarce amid Venezuela's political and economic crisis. They can also access certain government bonds and gasoline discounts, which are newly important. After decades of being paid at almost symbolic prices, gas prices are now competitive with international rates.

In principle, the Fatherland Card was introduced as a way to streamline the state-administrated distribution of food. More recently, the card has been integrated into state processes for accessing legal and personal documents, which can be extraordinarily difficult to obtain in Venezuela.


It is estimated that more than 70% of Venezuelans are already carrying the Card. And although many of them identify themselves as followers of chavismo (the political ideology of president Nicolás Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chávez), Venezuelans who identify as opponents of the dominant political ideology have also registered with the system in order to access personal documents.

The benefits of the Card have accumulated over time. At the beginning of 2018 (a month and a half after the presidential elections), Nicolás Maduro announced that the Card would be required for access to housing bonds and pension payments.

The Fatherland Card and Social Control

Some experts say the Fatherland Card has other objectives. Fiorella Perfetto of Caraota Digital maintains that the signing of contracts between the Venezuelan telecommunications company and ZTE in February 2017 is part of a larger scheme that was formulated by former President Hugo Chávez with China at the beginning of the mandate.

In 2016, technologist and writer Omar Castro analyzed a number of tweets related to the issue, remarking on people who compared the Card with ration cards:

In the end it is the people who will continue to finance the economy, it is not a question of financial devices [...] What are the implications of this card?

The Card was also the focus of criticism during the 2017 regional and municipal elections, as well as the 2018 presidential elections.

Many voters reported that when they arrived at the polls, there was a "Fatherland Card booth" a few meters away from the polling station. Voters who had a Fatherland Card were encouraged to register at the booth, and were promised special access to food and subsidy bonuses if they did so. 

Voters who did not have a Fatherland Card had different experiences. Some were encouraged to sign up for the system, while others were coerced to do so. A few even reported that they were told they could not vote if they did not sign up for the Fatherland Card.

At the same time, opposition campaign workers in Maturín reported that three polling places did not allow citizens to vote if they did not present a Fatherland Card.

The Card is intended to address the country's limitations on access to cash, hyperinflation and the serious lack of food and medicine. But it can also be seen as part of a wide-ranging state effort to control information, whether it is intended to be private or public. 



This has also included internet outages, attacks on online media, and the continuous censorship of media not aligned with the government and due to lack of paper, among other resources.

In August 2018, political analyst Leonard Reyes wrote a Twitter thread analyzing some of the different ways people reacted to the Card, among which it was suggested that the system would collapse on purpose by requesting services:

The entrenchment of this Narco Tyranny is not based on its ability to "offer" public services but to gain an asymmetrical advantage of its own "misrule" to make citizens increasingly State-dependent and bow to Social control.

Victor Drax, from Caracas Chronicles, an independent media collective, commented on what a monitoring system, in the context of Venezuela via the Fatherland Card, may mean for those who use it -- and for those who do not:

Remember what we've been saying about the carnet de la patria as an instrument of oppression? Reuters just published a thorough investigation about the thing, and it's so perverse, it's baffling [...] You know what this means? 

After you get on the system, the State can come directly to you and say "I know your mother needs medicine. I have it, and you'll only get it if you do what I want." This is how the State knows what to do when the time comes to exploit us.

A series of pieces published online by local and international media, as well as online conversations, continue to make it clear that the card is only one in a long series of efforts to isolate the nation and control the population. They show that these efforts did not begin with Nicolás Maduro's government and permeate in ways that cannot yet be fully understood. Following the same ideas, Drax concludes:

Now you see why Nicolás [Maduro] has been so desperate to get everyone on board with the Fatherland Card [...] To say that this tramples over the Constitution is an understatement, especially after 20 years of chavismo. Want to know the best part?

This all came from Hugo Chávez himself.

Originally published at Activist Post - reposted with permission.


Other News

June 24, 2019California Bill Would Dictate What Topics Pastors Can Preach About

Assembly Concurrent Resolution 99 calls on 'counselors, pastors, religious workers, educators' and institutions with 'great moral influenc...

June 24, 2019Did Your Child Return From College A Better Person?

When assessing America's or any of the Western world's universities -- wondering whether you should send your child to one; whether you sh...

June 24, 2019Trump Discards The Carrot-And-Stick Approach To Israel

At its core, the Democrats' conception of the U.S.-Israel relationship is that of a great power and a client state that must do as it's to...

June 24, 2019How Gaza's Past Reflects Gaza's Present

While the Strip's current inhabitants are not descended from ancient non-Arab Philistines, they bring Gaza's ancient past -- and its intra...

June 20, 2019The Resurgence Of The Feminist Witch

Is it any surprise that, side by side with radical feminism, witchcraft is on the rise in America? It is certainly is no coincidence that ...

June 20, 2019Another "Wrongful Birth" Lawsuit As Parents Sue For Mistake Of Giving Life

The very concept of "wrongful birth" is a horrible one with no place in any civilized society, as it enshrines in law the idea that some p...

June 20, 2019Anti-Israel Indoctrination Spreading Through School System

The growing presence of anti-Israel units in America's high schools and middle schools represents an ambitious extension of the campaign a...

Get Breaking News