By Ovunc Kutlu
ANKARA (AA) - The US Treasury Department on Monday imposed sanctions on a Chinese firm for conducting business with Venezuela and President Nicolas Maduro's government.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated China National Electronics Import & Export Corporation (CEIEC) for supporting efforts in Venezuela to restrict internet service and conduct digital surveillance and cyber operations against political opponents, Treasury Department said in a statement.
OFAC argued that Chinese technology companies, including CEIEC, challenge democratic values of freedom and transparency in Venezuela by developing and exporting tools to monitor, censor, and surveil its citizens’ activities on the internet.
"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.
OFAC said CEIEC has been supporting the Venezuelan government's cyber efforts since 2017 by providing software, training, and technical expertise to state-run telecommunications provider Venezuelan National Telephone Company, which controls 70% of all internet service in the country.
Software and hardware that CEIEC provided to Venezuela is a commercialized version of China’s "Great Firewall," which is a nationwide system of internet blocks and filters, used as a tool to maintain online censorship and control flow of information Chinese citizens can access outside China, it added.