In an effort to improve citizen security, Venezuela plans to install radars that detect gunshots and drones equipped with video cameras, but the use of surveillance technology offers the potential for abuse.
Venezuelan Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez said that the cameras and radars would be integrated with the emergency services to allow police to respond more quickly, reported EFE. Regular video cameras would be used in highly populated areas, and drones would allow security forces to monitor areas that are difficult to access, reported NTN24. According to Rodriguez, the authorities will install 50,000 cameras by April 2015.
Rodriguez said that a smartphone app that allows users to contact the nearest police unit — which Venezuela launched in September — has already helped reduce crime.
Rodriguez also stated that the Venezuelan government had acquired equipment to block phone calls in prisons in an effort to curb extortion, which is often perpetrated by prisoners.
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Venezuela’s surveillance technology could be misused to serve the interests of the ruling party, including by monitoring the activities of opponents. Elsewhere in the region, there have been examples of both left-wing and right-wing governments spying on political opponents via phone tapping and other means.
Indeed, Venezuelan authorities used edited surveillance footage to support their claims that the death of a young politician from the ruling party was a political killing carried out by the right wing, discarding evidence that indicated that the crime may in fact have been robbery-related.
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However, video cameras and radars could work to deter individuals from committing crimes and provide the police with more information for investigations. Venezuela has one of the highest homicide rates in the world — 73 per 100,000 in 2013 according to the Venezuelan Observatory of Violence, although the government claims the figure was 39 per 100,000 — driven by high levels of impunity for perpetrators.
Drones are increasingly popular surveillance tools in Latin America, but the region has yet to create a legal framework guiding their use. Fourteen countries currently possess drones, which have been used for everything from monitoring agricultural activities to military intelligence operations.