South America has had a rough history.
Venezuela, with its rich supply of natural resources, has been the center of controversy even before the Socialist President Hugo Chavez came to power in 1998.
Some rough patches have been caused by internal strife. Others derive from foreign meddling.
China has been making inroads in what was once the backyard of the United States.
Now, current Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is feeling the pressure while seeing the opportunity and has found a way to block Tor access in his country to stifle dissent.
A Stolen Election
Nicolás Maduro first came to power as president after the death of the much more popular Hugo Chavez in March of 2013.
During the first term of President Maduro’s office, Venezuela has fallen by the wayside in terms of economic sustainability and growth.
Massive protests by Venezuelan patriots have only gained momentum since his inauguration. These are the targets of military crackdowns.
Poverty has increased greatly and with it so has crime. Globally stagnant oil prices have not helped the situation.
Nicolás Maduro started his political career as a union head organizer for bus drivers.
He worked his way up to become Hugo Chavez’s vice president and served well in that capacity for over a decade.
Popular support never left the former President Chavez.
Now riots happen regularly under Maduro’s rule.Worker strikes further weaken the international situation for Venezuela.
One of his first acts when he came to power was a massive increase in security spending under the “Safe Homeland” program.
In May of 2018, Maduro was reelected. Almost the entire international community called the elections a farce.
The United Nations itself declared it would not recognize the results of the election prior to it being held.
Many political parties of Venezuela did not even bother to campaign as almost everyone suspected foul play.
Even most of South America has condemned the Venezuelan elections being done in bad faith.
Multiple ambassadors from the Peruvian Lima group have been recalled to their home countries.
Lima was founded in 2017 and has been highly critical of Venezuela since. They now coordinate a response to the thousands who will flee Venezuela.
Stress on neighboring countries does little to improve the situation—diplomatic or economic.
Human Rights Violations
Multiple human rights violations had occurred even before the sham election had taken place.
In April of 2017, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) issued a statement condemning the actions of the Maduro regime in terms of silencing journalists and blocking access to outside sources of information.
President Maduro is doing everything he can to keep his country isolated when it comes to information.
Most Venezuelan telecommunications are controlled by state power.
Hugo Chavez had gained control of CANTV, Venezuela’s largest telecommunication company, in May of 2007.
Smaller independent startups usually need a state license to broadcast.
As far as pushing propaganda through such smaller companies, this does not seem to be the case. At least not so far.
The closure of 50 separate radio stations in 2015 would seem to indicate that outright censorship is President Maduro’s strategy.
Rounding up journalists and detaining them has been growing more and more common since 2014.
Tor Is Taken Out
Large peaks in Tor usage originating in Venezuela leading up to and since Maduro’s election may have caused the dictator, excuse me, “president” some concern.
Innovative ways of crippling Tor have been uncovered by Venezuelans finest. Both direct access and the bridges are closed down by the new methods.
Without Tor, it will be that much harder to get good information about what is happening in Venezuela to the rest of the world.
This only adds to the numerous human rights violations already laid upon Maduro’s regime.
President Maduro claims this is all necessary and continues with his “state of emergency” which grants him a sort of extreme executive power and authority over every aspect of Venezuelan country and life.
Some would argue the “state of emergency” should have ended no later than 2015. It has been going on far too long according to the people of Venezuela.
If the actions of President Maduro were seen in a vacuum, his behavior would seem tyrannical.
Yet he has had reason to fear for his countries survival as a free and independent state, more or less.
During the 2002 coup attempt against then-President Hugo Chavez, Maduro had stayed loyal the entire time.
The coup was brought about by growing discontent among the elite at that time.
When Chavez seized control of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) in April of that year, military forces surrounded the presidential palace and arrested him.
The military continued to make threats against Chavez, trying to force him to resign his office.
He had pushed and succeed in getting a new constitution passed for his people and the elites wanted a return to the old ways.
President Chavez never resigned, and the will of the people never broke.
On April 12, during the coup, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a statement that they would accept the new unelected militarily-backed regime of the businessman interim President Pedro Carmona.
Normally the IMF is hesitant in lending support to new governments, however in this case finance was secured almost immediately.
President Chavez regained his position about a day later thanks to the unpopularity of Pedro Carmona and the love the people had for their elected leader.
In May of 2007, Venezuela paid off all outstanding debt it owed to the IMF five years ahead of schedule.
This is thanks mostly to the massive boon that the now state-owned oil company PDVSA provided at the time.
Prior to this, Venezuela had helped Argentina pay off its own debt to the IMF in 2006. During this time President Chavez made the choice to leave the IMF and World Bank for good.
This is an unprecedented move in history. President Chavez announces his plans to create a new bank, the Bank of the South.
In 2009, the Bank of the South opens for business, almost. Members include Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina.
While the bank itself has opened, its state of capitalization has yet to happen. Members are still planning on how best to finance the new institution at present.
This partly has to do with how President Maduro has been mishandling his own country.
Silken Roads, Fiber-Optic Belts
China has had a role in the development of Venezuela since at least 2008 with a series of cooperative energy deals being struck between the two.
Venezuela receives support for infrastructure while China receives oil.
Part of China’s global-political strategy, starting in 2000, has been the securing of natural resources through deals such as the ones with Venezuela with smaller economies.
Most African and South American countries have something going on with China at present, despite tariffs that U.S. President Trump wishes to impose.
One major initiative between China and Chile are planning on is a massive fiber-optic cable which can link all of South America with China, with massive speed increases to information transmission.
Note that China has many censorship policies of its own in place—much in the same way Venezuela has been doing.
Vindicated? Not in the Slightest
One may try to surmise that parts of this article are somehow apologist rhetoric for President Maduro.
I will be perfectly clear when I say I agree with the international community that Maduro stole every election he has ever had, save his very first one when he was made the union leader of his bus company.
There is no excusing censorship and rounding up people simply for expressing their discontent with policies.
In my opinion, President Maduro should drop the president title and call himself what he is, a tyrant that seems in over his head.
Venezuela should have free, open and fair elections. Every country on earth deserves that.
Facts are facts though. My own speculation is the IMF may have been meddling with Venezuela with U.S. help. Very rarely do monopoly-style banks lay down while competition rises.
But, just to reiterate, stating such a thing does not excuse the tyrannical behavior of anyone.