CAVEDATOS - Venezuelan Chamber of Information Technology and Communication Industry, - as part of one of the 19 countries affiliated to ALETI, wishes to recall the political, social, and economic situation facing our country at this time, to seek your support so that in Venezuela our rights as citizens and representatives of the ICT industry can be restored, and that we may have the security as well as the economic and legal incentives that enable us to fulfill our common mission of promoting the use, development, exchange, and commercialization of technologies, as well as promoting and encouraging the generation of positive policies for the development of the Information and Knowledge Society in our country, and supporting similar initiatives for the regions as well.
In addition to the economic and legal problems of recent years, relating to the operation of companies of our Sector under the applicable national legislation detailed later, we add below the most recent violations of individual rights - which already have been widely reported by the media and social networks, all of which can be summarized in three macro aspects:
- Right to Protest (Art 681and2). The government, in order to avoid public demonstrations, uses different strategies such as not assigning "permissions”3 that allow such demonstrations to happen. Without legal argument, the use of excessive and repressive force of the state security agents to disperse the protest, and finally, the presence of armed civilian groups, which are not directly controlled by the security forces of the State, intimidating the protesters. Armed civilian groups are also present in large parts of communities throughout the country, with the purpose of stopping such communities from initiating any protest or from joining the protests that are in development.
- Right to Information (Art 581y4). Protests, events, reviews, and anti-government positions are not being reported by audiovisual, printed, and digital media. All mass media are censored by the government and/or self-censored as a result of application of various laws (Resorte7 Act, Journalist Code of Ethics). Moreover, they are limited in their operation by, for example, the prevention of the allocation of foreign currency for the purchase of resources not produced in the country, among which is the hindrance to purchase of paper for newsprint paper. Meanwhile, international media has also been threatened or removed from subscription television if they offer information on the demonstrations or protests that are happening in the country. There are two notable examples, such as the output of the NTN24 television and threats to which CNN-en-Español was subjected. Even simple informative Internet pages such as NTN24 and its digital version of information were blocked by CONATEL. There is also a suspicious decrease in internet connection speed, when visiting pages with information on the protests or when trying to upload or download of videos and pictures of the events.
- Right to Privacy (Art. 481and5 and Art. 601and6). There is a systematic violation of the privacy of individuals. Government controlled television regularly present private emails, recorded conversations of politicians who are adversaries, as well as the domestic conversations of people in the privacy of their homes, without any criminal content. All are recorded or copied by government employees without judicial order or any legal process and are even delivered to other governmental media, where they are used to make fun or even threaten the recorded victims, all being done without any legal restrictions or consequences for the perpetrators.
From a business perspective, the government has indicated through the media that there is availability for the changes requested by our Sector as well as other productive sectors of the country, but in our day-to-day work, we have been cut off from the right to free economic exercise set out in our National Constitution. Among the biggest problems that come as a result of the economic policies that have been implemented since 2013 which affect the operation of the sector are:
- Limitations on the legal convertibility of currency through an established change control since 2003. This control especially affects the purchase and importation of goods or services to Venezuela, as we do not have domestic production of many of these inputs. The consequences of these limitations are beyond the impediment to acquiring the equipment and spare parts.
- ISPs and owners or managers of telecommunications infrastructure, incidentally, are also threatened by the government with fines and closure of operations if they do not comply with orders to prevent any service data to pass content that bothers the government. We can add to this that regulatory authorities also require minimum conditions and levels of service to operate, which, if not met, lead to fines or removal of operating licenses. Naturally, the foregoing restrictions on access to foreign exchange, in recent years, have caused deterioration in growth prospects and, despite great efforts, also in actual maintenance capabilities.
- The existence of a law limiting profits (Law on Fair Costs and Prices), which sets a ceiling of gross margin of 30%. It is a law that is difficult to implement, as it lacks sufficient specificity to make it "appropriate" for each type of industry or business, therefore making it discretionary and allowing the government and its officials to act with inspections and "audits" that allow sanctioning of the company and its owners, with penalties including fines or even prison terms. It is an extremely repressive legal scheme that is added to the package of disincentives that currently grips the political-economic system of the country.
In summary, the purpose of this communication is to present ALETI and WITSA members with details of the present situation in Venezuela and request that each representative act as a replicator of this information and request to join other regional and international parties to stimulate the positive change and stability needed in the country, with policies more proper for its development.
If the Association or any member requires further detail of the information presented, do not hesitate to request it.
Board Of Directors