US Hits Chinese Company Over Venezuela Internet Curbs

The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on a major Chinese electronics and engineering company for assisting Venezuela in curbing dissent on the internet.

The US said it was restricting transactions with the China National Electronics Import and Export Corporation (CEIEC) and blocking assets of any firm in which the state-owned company holds 50 percent stake or higher.

The Treasury Department said CEIEC provides expertise to Venezuela’s state-owned telecom company, which has blocked independent media as well as livestreams by opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized as interim president by most Western and Latin American nations.

“The United States will not hesitate to target anyone helping to suppress the democratic will of the Venezuelan people and others around the world,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The Treasury Department described CEIEC as offering a “commercialized version of Beijing’s ‘Great Firewall,'” the communist power’s sweeping filter that scrubs out politically sensitive material from the internet accessible to ordinary people.

A journalist follows live a 2019 online encounter between Colombian President Ivan Duque and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido from a computer in Caracas, where the United States accuses China of helping restrict the internet A journalist follows live a 2019 online encounter between Colombian President Ivan Duque and Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido from a computer in Caracas, where the United States accuses China of helping restrict the internet Photo: AFP / Yuri CORTEZ

CEIEC on its website describes itself as selling “solutions that protect the most basic rights of every citizen” and also mentions business interests in Bolivia and Ecuador.

China is a major supporter and commercial partner of oil-producing Venezuela, helping leftist leader Nicolas Maduro survive a nearly two-year, US-led campaign to topple him as he leads an economy in shambles.

CEIEC was previously under US sanctions from 2006 to 2008 under a law that prohibits activities seen as helping weapons proliferation from Iran and Syria.

The Treasury Department said CEIEC has more than 200 subsidiaries and offices around the world. Monday’s decision allows a 45-day grace period for the company’s partners to wind down operations or face US punishment.

President Donald Trump’s administration has been ramping up sanctions against adversaries Iran and Venezuela as it prepares to hand over on January 20 to President-elect Joe Biden.

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