Venezuelans who suspect their friends or neighbors of being insufficiently socialist now have a direct line to the government they can use to ensure anyone not toeing the line is punished. President Nicolás Maduro announced the new “Denounce Infiltrates” Hotline this week.
Spanish newspaper ABC reports that the outline, announced by the Socialist Party’s (PSUV) Vice President of Organization and Electoral Matters Francisco Ameliach, is especially targeted to be used against self-proclaimed Chavistas who do not fall in line with the Maduro administration, not necessarily right-wing opposition members, many of whom have already been killed or arrested.
Any deviances in party ideology perceived among friends or relatives can be reported to “firstname.lastname@example.org” or texted to the number 0416-9425792.
In announcing the new initiative, Ameliach specifically notes the number is to be used so that “the militant who is fomenting disunion will be reported.” The move demonstrates a sharp contrast between the previous rhetoric of the administration, which denounced the American “empire” as the greatest enemy to Venezuelan prosperity. Leftists who disagree with Maduro’s leadership are the ones in the regime’s crosshairs now. “The enemy that hurts us most is the internal enemy,” Ameliach asserts during his radio program, “the infiltrate, the fifth column, he who masks himself as a Chavista and is not a Chavista.”
This is not the first such hotline President Maduro has opened. Last year, the Maduro administration opened a hotline to denounce “speculators,” meaning small businesses that sold products at retail price. Maduro’s price caps on necessary goods, such as eggs, oil, and milk, have resulted in severe scarcity in much of the nation, as well as the emergence of illegal pop-up marketplaces where vendors sell the products at full price. The hotline functions similarly to Cuba’s “Committee for the Defense of the Revolution” system, in which one person on every street block is assigned to monitor his or her neighbors for any counter-revolutionary activity or anti-socialist opinions.
The new anti-dissident Chavista hotline specifically targets leftists, however, after a year in which a number of prominent Chavistas have turned their backs on the Maduro regime. Longtime Chavista Governor José Gregorio Vielma Mora turned on Maduro in February, calling for an end to government-backed violence against peaceful student protesters. Since then, Maduro has struggled with something of a mutiny in his cabinet. Jorge Giordani, Maduro’s planning minister and a longtime adviser to Hugo Chávez, was replaced in June, after saying in a public letter: “It is painful and alarming to see a presidency that is not transmitting leadership.”