The United States imposed sanctions on the China National Electronics Import & Export Corporation (CEIEC) over its support for Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro, the State Department announced on Monday.
In a statement from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the U.S. accused CEIEC of “supporting the illegitimate Maduro regime’s efforts to undermine democracy in Venezuela” through the provision of services such as restricting internet access and carrying out digital surveillance of the regime’s political opponents.
CEIEC has provided software, training, and technical expertise to the regime’s entities. It provides cyber support and technical experts to state-run telecommunications provider Venezuelan National Telephone Company (CANTV) which controls 70 percent of internet service in Venezuela and frequently blocks online independent newspapers and speeches by opposition members.
PRC technology companies, including CEIEC, lead the world in developing and exporting tools to monitor, censor, and surveil citizens’ activities on the internet. CEIEC has been supporting the Maduro regime’s malicious efforts to repress political dissent and undermine democratic processes since 2017.
The statement went on to reference the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for next week in Venezuela, which the Maduro regime will use as an opportunity to regain control of the National Assembly, the country’s last legitimate lawmaking body that is currently controlled by the democratic opposition.
Pompeo also reaffirmed his support for the country’s legitimate president, Juan Guaidó, despite reports that President Donald Trump has given up on his belief that the 37-year-old can instigate a transition to democracy in Venezuela.
The statement continued:
With this latest action, the United States reaffirms its commitment to promoting accountability for all those complicit in the illegitimate Maduro regime’s efforts to undermine democracy. Maduro’s desperate attempts to manipulate the democratic processes should leave no doubt that any elections organized by the illegitimate regime, including the December 6 parliamentary elections, will be neither free nor fair.
We stand with Interim President Guaidó and the Venezuelan people who have struggled for years to restore democracy and liberty to Venezuela.
The Trump administration has since its inception pummeled the Venezuelan regime with sanctions targeting the country’s economy, state-run companies, and senior officials. It is currently unclear if such sanctions would continue under a Biden administration, with the presumptive president-elect sending out mixed messages as to his stance on the Venezuela issue.
CEIEC is one of numerous Chinese entities providing material support to the socialist regime, currently presiding over one of the world’s most pressing economic and humanitarian crises. Over the past few years, Beijing has stepped up its support to Maduro by providing financial loans, oil shipments, and medical supplies. Such contributions have done little to ease the hardships faced by the Venezuelan population, although they have proven vital to the regime’s capacity to remain in power.
Maduro pledged to visit Beijing this year to “hug our brother Xi Jinping” and thank him for continued Chinese support. Such plans are yet to materialize. The last meeting between the two men took place in late 2018, where Xi agreed to lend Venezuela $5 billion in financial relief despite frustrations over their ability to pay loans back.