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Cuban Information Technology Penetration in Venezuela

Jennifer Hernandez at the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies:

Cuban Information Technology Penetration in Venezuela

Notorious communist Commander Ramiro Valdes, former head of Cuban State Security, arrived in Venezuela in 2010 as Cuba’s Minister of Communication and Information. He claimed his visit was to help solve Venezuela’s energy crisis. Yet Valdes’ background shows no prior experience in electrical engineering. [1] His trip to Venezuela shone light into a shady world of refined totalitarian repression and control through information technology software.

Ramiro Valdes’ trip alarmed many who were familiar with his ruthless past and questioned the real purpose of his trip. As the Minister of Communication and Information, Valdes continued to promote repression by justifying the Cuban government’s Internet restrictions stating that the Internet is “a tool of global extermination” that must be controlled. [2] Concern with his visit was also heightened by reports that, since 2005, Cuban company Albet S.A. (Albet Ingeneria y Sistemas) was engaged in information technology businesses in Venezuela. Valdes had signed contracts delegating Albet the responsibility to manage Venezuela’s Administrative Service of Identification, Migration and Alien Affairs (SAIME). [3]

Albet S.A. is a Cuban software company closely linked to the University of Havana’s Information Science (UCI), a project of the Cuban regime. The company develops software for official government use, among other services, that are exported to Latin America with Venezuela as the main importer. [4] In an interview given to Venezuela’s daily newspaper El Nacional, former Venezuelan government consultant Anthony Daquin assured that “Albet is a camouflage of Cuba’s G2.” [5] The statement confirmed what some already concluded, considering that all national companies on the island are owned by the communist regime and managed mainly by the military. In its website, Albet embraces its “commitment to the Revolution.” [6]

The year after Valdes’ trip, El Nacional published a special edition detailing that the Venezuelan government had granted Albet S.A. the contract to provide and administer the software to manage SAIME’s functions. SAIME’s functions include creating and issuing electronic identification documents (ID cards and passports) and maintaining a civilian registry. The software also manages databases for:

• Public and private registries,

• Centers to analyze information,

• Educational software,

• Project “Alba Guardia” database which keeps track of oil rigs managed by PDVSA, Venezuela’s national oil company,

• The President’s communication office,

• Any information pertaining to the country’s prison, security, emergency and
hospital systems. [7]

It is particularly alarming that a non-Venezuelan company manages the country’s civilian registry and has the ability to issue personal identification documents. It does not only violate Venezuelan sovereignty but it exposes the personal information of every Venezuelan citizen to Cuban authorities.

Anthony Daquin also explained how certain clauses in the contract “provide all data for registered Venezuelans which allow combining information from the National Electoral Council, the Senait, and SAIME.” [8] It is probable that the irregularities present in the 2013 Venezuelan Presidential elections are linked to the Cuban regime’s manipulation of the civilian registry. Presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles, denounced thousands of irregularities, among them the growth of 943% more votes for Maduro compared to 2012 results for Chavez in those same electoral centers, and the presence of more than 600,000 deceased people in the electoral registry. [9] It was additionally reported that in an electoral center in Montalban, a neighborhood of Caracas, a man had 40 Venezuelan identification cards in his possession. Also, residents in the area noted that some of the people voting had never been previously seen and had Cuban accents. [10]

Albet’s control of Venezuela’s SAIME can also be a source of concern for the United States. In 2008, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated two Venezuelans, Ghazi Nasr al Din and Fawzi Kan’an, as Hizballah supporters. Both men, together with two of Kan’an travel agencies, were facilitating travel for Hizballah supporters. [11] It can be assumed that because Albet controls the software for SAIME, Cuba is also an accomplice in issuing Venezuelan identification and possibly passports to terrorists.

____________________________________

Notes

[1] Ramiro Valdes entry in the official Cuban government online encyclopedia EcuRed shows no electrical engineering background or experience. He has extensive military training and led for many years the island’s State Security apparatus.
Ramiro Valdés, EcuRed 2013. http://www.ecured.cu/index.php/Ramiro_Valdés

[2] Cuba, Informe Anual 2008- Américas, Reporteros sin Fronteras (2008) P.49.

[3] “Dicen que Venezuela es la URSS de Cuba durante la Guerra Fria” El Nacional. May 25, 2010.

[4] “UCI: una década de sueños realizados” Cubahora (2012)

http://www.cubahora.cu/ciencia-y-technologia/uci-una-decada-de-suenos-realizados

[5] “Cedula electrónica a la cubana” Siete Dias Special Sunday Edition, El Nacional. July 17, 2011.

[6] Albet website, 2013. http://www.albet.cu/valores

[7] “Cedula electrónica a la cubana,” 2011.

[8] Ibid.

[9] “Principales irregularidades denunciadas por Capriles en las elecciones del 14A” Globovision April 16, 2013.

[10] “Las dudas del 14A” El Universal, April 21, 2013.

[11] Treasury Targets Hizballah in Venezuela, US Department of the Treasury, June 18, 2008.

____________________________________

*Jennifer Hernandez is a Research Assistant at the Institute for Cuban & Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami.

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