Marco Rubio: China ‘Controlling Defense Cyber Operations’ in Venezuela
May 9, 2019
The Chinese government has actively helped Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro control, censor, and shut down the Internet in his quest to keep the legitimate president of the country, Juan Guaidó, from governing, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told Breitbart News in an interview Monday.
China’s ruling Communist Party has used its foreign relations arms to subtly distance itself from Maduro this year. Unlike neighboring Russia, which openly boasts of having intervened militarily in the country on Maduro’s behalf, China’s Foreign Ministry has stopped short of referring to Maduro as the nation’s president since Guaidó took office in January and took nearly a week to issue an official statement on the military uprising Guaidó called for on April 30. When it did, it urged a “peaceful settlement” without offering any specific statement of support for either Maduro or Guaidó.
Rubio suggested that Beijing may be distancing itself from Maduro because the tide has shifted so definitively against him in Latin America that the rest of the region may sour on investments with China if it interferes to help him. That does not mean China is not helping Maduro, merely that it cannot afford the bad press, Rubio stated.
“The Chinese are very involved. First of all, they are owed a bunch of money, so they want to get paid,” he explained. “Number two is they are single-handedly helping conduct the Internet control operation. They have basically taken a commercial version of their great Internet firewall and given it to Maduro, and it is a service they are providing him, so they are the ones that are shutting down the Internet and access to social media.”
Maduro’s regime regularly cuts nationwide access to the Internet to prevent Guaidó and other opposition leaders from being able to communicate with the masses or organize rallies against him. Most Venezuelan opposition figures, like Maduro, are avid Twitter users. Last week, Guaidó used Twitter to broadcast live from La Carlota, an airbase outside of Caracas, and declare the final step in removing Maduro, which he branded “Operation Freedom.”
Guaidó, according to Rubio, has “no access to the media. Any time he tries to speak or communicate on social media, they shut down the Internet. … Literally, every time he holds a rally, they shut down the Internet.”
As the Chinese are “single-handedly controlling the defensive cyber operations shutting down the Internet,” they are responsible for silencing Guaidó. Yet being more open about their role could jeopardize investments in other parts of the continent.
“The Chinese play a tricky game because on the one hand, they are trying to grow in influence and presence throughout Latin America, so they are seeing all of these countries supporting Guaidó, and they don’t want to … antagonize these countries by being cheerleaders for the Maduro regime,” Rubio noted.
“On the other hand, they view Venezuela as a place of strategic importance because they have an existing leverage relationship with him [Maduro], they’re there on the ground, and the notion in their mind is they need to be against what they view as any American efforts to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.”