Big Brother Cameras Mandated for Ecuador’s Motels, Brothels

By: Rebeca Morla - @RebecaMorla - Mar 9, 2015, 4:48 pm
Nightclubs, bars, cabarets, motels, and other similar establishments in Ecuador must have surveillance systems in place by the end of March 2015.
Nightclubs, bars, cabarets, motels, and other similar establishments in Ecuador must have surveillance systems in place by the end of March 2015. (Comunicación Central)

EspañolEcuador’s Ministry of Interior has issued new regulations forcing businesses that cater to the local nightlife to install security cameras within their facilities. The measure, adopted January 30, stipulates that video surveillance systems must be in place by the end of March for business owners to receive operating licenses for nightclubs, bars, cabarets, and motels.

The policy requires surveillance cameras to be placed in “strategic public places that do not violate the privacy of citizens,” such as hallways, waiting rooms, entrances, or exits. The video footage must be archived for six months, and provided to authorities when required.

Moreover, the new rules require these businesses to employ one security guard for every 50 customers. Non-compliance may lead to the government’s permanent closure of the business.

According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Interior, the goal of the new policy is to “further strengthen citizen security and peaceful social coexistence” in the country.

Consuelo Castro, police intendant of the province of Guayas, has assured the public that the policy will not violate the privacy of those who visit these establishments, arguing that its main purpose will be to prevent violent or illegal acts.

“The videos will identify the presence of teenagers in the place and the entry of weapons, and it will facilitate the process of identifying those who commit a crime or offense,” said Castro.

However, Enrique Barreiro, a representative of the Association of Nightlife Establishment Owners, told local newspaper El Comercio that the new policy must be studied in detail, “because in many cases, customers feel that their privacy is being violated.”

Public Response

The encroachment of state surveillance in Ecuador’s public life is, however, nothing new. Since 2012, the government has mandated over 55,000 video cameras be placed in local taxis and buses, over 2,000 on public streets and roads, and over 1,400 in the nation’s schools.

“Cameras in schools, now cameras in motels. What’s next? The state is watching you #Ecuador.”

Nonetheless, the latest provision that now covers public nightlife has been met with strong rejection among Ecuador’s social-media users. In between jokes and complaints, multiple Twitter users have claimed the Ecuadorian state aims to further monitor the activity of its citizens.

“Smile, we’re taxing you — IRS.
Smile, we’re filming you — Ecstasy Motels.”

“#BigBrotherIsWatchingYou Voyeurism as state policy in Ecuador.”

“Fingerprint scanners in supermarkets in Venezuela, cameras in schools, bars, and motels in Ecuador … And they are not accountable for their corruption.”

Security versus Privacy

Andrés Delgado, founder of Radical Openness (Apertura Radical), and member of the group #FreeInternet (#InternetLibre), is an adamant opponent of the government’s latest surveillance measure. He told the PanAm Post that he believes placing cameras in nightclubs, bars, and other similar establishments is a clear violation of personal privacy.

“The problem is not, as some authorities think, that we believe cameras will be placed in the bedrooms or bathrooms of these places. The record of activities in public areas — i.e. who, when, where, and with whom someone was — represents an invasion of privacy, since all this data can be associated to the type of activity that occurs at these places, even if it did not necessarily occur.”

When asked about the government justification for the new regulation, Delgado said he does not believe the public is willing to sacrifice freedom for security.

“The state can lock me and my family up inside four concrete walls, guarantee us adequate food and medical care as well when needed, but the reason it sounds so absurd is that obviously nobody would be willing to sacrifice their freedom in exchange for ‘public safety’ or ‘peaceful coexistence,'” he argues.

“Surveillance cameras are an equally aggressive measure, but less obvious. The state has the obligation to guarantee the right to security, but also to respect our right to privacy. Several International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance have already been established, and in this case, these clearly are not being respected,” Delgado added.

“Cameras ‘strictly in the hallways’ of motels and cabarets. Is it that innocent?”

Furthermore, he explained that there have been other attempts to obtain private information about citizens through legislation in the country. Delgado recalled that about a year ago, the government attempted to amend the Penal Code in order to collect all internet traffic data in the country, as well as the metadata associated with these communications.

The law also tried to force the owners of internet cafes to record the activity of their users, but the National Assembly later rejected the proposal on the grounds that it violated human rights. More recently, a second attempt to maintain access and call logs was made through the Telecommunications Act, but President Rafael Correa vetoed the legislation.

Delgado notes that there are important parallels between the legislation that was ultimately rejected either by the president or the National Assembly and the current surveillance regulations established by the Ministry of Interior. “In both cases, we’re talking about data collection by a third party [stored] in databases that are vulnerable to attacks,” he said, arguing that if previous attempts have been rejected, this latest measure should likewise not be allowed.

Finally, Delgado said that although Ecuador’s National Intelligence Secretariat (SENAIN) is not as powerful as the US National Security Agency (NSA) or Britain’s GCHQ, “it has an annual budget of US$58 million, and has software capable of spying on social networks, smartphones, tablets, and computers, as well as facial and voice recognition.”

“What mechanisms exist for citizens to ensure proper procedures are in place? That’s a question I’d like the authorities to answer. Democracy should not be a matter of faith.”

Edited by Guillermo Jimenez.

Rebeca Morla Rebeca Morla

Based in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Rebeca Morla works as an editorial assistant with the PanAm Post. She is a political scientist and an Executive Board member of EsLibertad. Follow @RebecaMorla.

Venezuelan Government Legitimacy Sinks with Its Black Gold

By: Helena Ball - Mar 9, 2015, 3:51 pm

EspañolIntellectuals, pundits, and opportunists alike were fascinated with former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and his charismatic message to put down corrupt elites and eradicate poverty. What they failed to notice was that he was cloaking the country behind windfall oil revenues — to the tune of US$1 trillion since 1999 — to hide the deep wounds his policies inflicted that are now too bloody to conceal. Nicolás Maduro, a former bus driver and relatively unknown Venezuelan foreign minister, inherited the battered country. But unlike in Chávez’s time, plummeting oil prices have eliminated the government’s ability to patch up its mistakes with handouts and emergency decrees. With the coffers depleted, repression has become the only option to maintain power as the economy collapses after years in the chokehold of stringent controls and regulations. Plummeting oil prices have eliminated the government’s ability to patch up its mistakes. Venezuela is on the brink of default while inflation spirals out of control, the currency continues a free fall, and the death toll continues to rise. As any semblance of legitimacy disappears, ambitious competitors in government have the chance to vie for the presidency. Yet despite Maduro’s obvious failings and draconian hand, he will be hard to topple. His appointment to the presidency was a calculated decision by Chávez and his long-time allies in Cuba in order to keep their joint effort to create a socialist utopia in motion. Chávez’s own rise to power was catalyzed by his connections to Fidel Castro, who helped him craft his long-term plan to perpetuate his position in power and impose his ideologically oriented system of government. His terminal illness was an unexpected bump in the road for the Cuba-Venezuela plan to permeate the continent and eventually the world with the international-socialist approach to government, strategically destroying Venezuela’s 50-year-old democratic institutions. Venezuela is a Cuban satellite, its leader a puppet of the Castro regime. Cue Maduro, a loyal Chavista trained to sound like his mentor in public appearances and malleable enough to keep under Cuba’s thumb. Other more high-profile members of the Chavista government were cast aside as their independent thinking and ambitions of power were a threat to the Cuban alliance. Today, Venezuela is a Cuban satellite, its leader a puppet of the Castro regime. So whoever attempts to replace Maduro will have to contend with the leadership in Havana, further complicating the political crisis resolution. The Caribbean island-nation and former Cold War Soviet ally has directed Venezuela’s actions for years. Chávez and Fidel’s friendship has been well documented since 1998, and it is no coincidence that, just like Cuba, Venezuela holds frequent elections to maintain the semblance legitimacy for its policy actions. And of course, the regimes have never been surprised by the results. Proof of voter intimidation and assisted voting, in addition to electoral-roll tampering during the Chávez presidency, was recently reaffirmed in a study conducted by researchers at the Carlos III University in Madrid. After Chávez’s death, elections were held once again to maintain the pretense of democracy. Maduro was allowed to run and win, even after claims that his candidacy was unconstitutional due to his post as vice president. International media publications and diplomatic institutions quickly granted Maduro the title of president of Venezuela, despite the most conspicuous fraud in the country’s history with swollen voter rolls, ballot irregularities, and blatant voter intimidation. An illegitimate government managed to attain domestic legitimacy by force, and the rest of the world acquiesced. Theorists describe political crisis as a decline in legitimacy in state institutions and political elites. As such, Venezuela has been in a crisis for more than a decade and has now reached a political apocalypse. Political scientist Robert Dahl denotes the necessary criteria for a country to be considered a democracy: free and fair elections, the right to vote, the right to run for office, freedom of expression, alternative sources of information, and the freedom to join organizations. Venezuela fails to meet not one but all the criteria, and has for many years deprived its citizens of those rights. Elections keep citizens’ hopes alive that a peaceful resolution to the political crisis can still take place, when it is evident that democratic institutions in the country are now only a façade. Thus by no academic definition of the words legitimate and democracy can this government be considered to be either, and therefore should be given none of the advantages of international legitimacy in the diplomatic stage. Change can come from within … if the rest of the world condemns the government's every action. The only way that change can come from within is if the rest of the world condemns the government's every action and removes its ability to cloak itself in false legitimacy. The Cuban-Venezuelan method of infiltrating democratic institutions by corroding them from within to create a neo-socialist totalitarian state has reached far beyond Caribbean shores, most notably to Argentina’s presidency and Spain’s leftist Podemos Party. The country also has economic relationships with the likes of Syria, Iran, and Russia. Academics like Samuel Huntington consider democracy to be the only source of legitimate government — so what should be the world’s response to a despotic, totalitarian regime that arbitrarily murders and imprisons its citizens on a daily basis? Denying visas to certain corrupt government officials is a start, but it is nowhere near an action strong enough to send the message that Venezuela is a country hijacked by an illegitimate group of thugs with international backing from like-minded despots. Edited by Fergus Hodgson.

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