- This action will freeze the US assets of CEIEC and prohibit Americans from trading with them.
- This is not the first time that CEIEC has been sanctioned by the United States.
- Secretary Pompeo criticized the Maduro regime for manipulating the parliamentary elections on December 6, saying that the elections are "neither free nor fair."
The United States imposed sanctions on Chinese state-owned company China Electronics Import and Export Corporation (CEIEC) on Monday, accusing it of supporting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s attempts to restrict internet access and conduct digital surveillance of the regime’s political opponents, undermining democracy.
This action will freeze the US assets of CEIEC and prohibit Americans from trading with them. The US Treasury Department also stated that CEIEC has more than 200 subsidiaries and offices worldwide. This decision allows the company’s partners to have a 45-day grace period to terminate the business. Otherwise, they will face US penalties.
The U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement that Chinese companies support Maduro’s leftist government to “restrict Internet services and conduct digital surveillance and cyber operations against political opponents.”
“The illegitimate Maduro regime’s reliance on entities like CEIEC to advance its authoritarian agenda further illustrates the regime’s prioritization of power over democratic values and processes,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement.
“The United States will not hesitate to target anyone helping to suppress the democratic will of the Venezuelan people and others around the world,” he added.
The Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the move “illegal,” and said in a statement that it was designed to “isolate the country and bring difficulties to the Venezuelan people.” CEIEC has not yet responded.
In fact, this is not the first time that CEIEC has been sanctioned by the United States. From 2006 to 2008, this company was also sanctioned for being accused by the United States of helping the spread of weapons in Iran and Syria.
Accused of Helping to Build the “Great Firewall of China”
Agence France-Presse reported that although CEIEC claims to sell “solutions to protect the most basic rights of every citizen,” and also mentions cases in Bolivia and Ecuador, the US Treasury Department said that it provides “commercialized versions” of Beijing’s “Great Firewall.”
The US Treasury Department stated that CEIEC has supported the Maduro government since 2017 and provided software, training, and technical expertise to Venezuelan government entities, including the Venezuelan National Telephone Company (CANTV).
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused CEIEC of supporting the Maduro regime to “suppress political dissent and undermine the democratic process” since 2017.
“PRC [The People’s Republic of China] technology companies, including CEIEC, lead the world in developing and exporting tools to monitor, censor, and surveil citizens’ activities on the internet,” Secretary Pompeo said.
“CEIEC has been supporting the Maduro regime’s malicious efforts to repress political dissent and undermine democratic processes since 2017,” he added.
According to Reuters, Venezuelans have said for years that their computers and mobile phones cannot connect to certain opposition-related websites or some local news organizations that openly criticize the government.
Among them, those who use the state-owned telecommunications provider Venezuela’s National Telephone Company to provide broadband services are most affected, but users of private services also face restrictions.
Venezuela will hold parliamentary elections on December 6. President Maduro hopes to retake the National Assembly, the only institution controlled by the opposition.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido and some international observers believed that the election is rigged and hoped that the public will resist it.
In a statement, Secretary Pompeo criticized the Maduro regime for manipulating the parliamentary elections on December 6, saying that the elections are “neither free nor fair.”