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Senators Want ZTE's Link with Venezuela Probed by White House

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Nov 28, 2018, 3:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

ZTE has fallen into the U.S. government's crosshairs once again, this time thanks to its involvement with Venezuela. Earlier this month, Reuters reported that ZTE supplied Venezuela's state telecommunications firm with gear from Dell. The equipment helped Venezuela create a database that uses something called the "fatherland card" to track citizens' behavior. Data collected by the card and the Venezuelan government includes financial and medical history, social media use, political affiliation, and whether a person voted. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D) and Marco Rubio (R) plan to submit a letter to the U.S. secretaries of state, treasury, and commerce to determine if ZTE collaborated with people under U.S. sanction, whether the U.S. gear was used unlawfully, and whether ZTE helped Venezuela spy on its citizens. Hollen and Rubio are concerned that ZTE used Dell's equipment in the database. The senators want to know "whether ZTE violated U.S. export controls with respect to the installation of data storage units built by Dell." ZTE is effectively on parole with the U.S. government. In April, the U.S. accused ZTE of violating a previous settlement concerning illegal equipment sales to Iran and North Korea. The company paid a $1 billion fine after it slogged through a three-month ban on the use of U.S. hardware and software. Many Venezuelan government officials are under sanction by the U.S. for authoritative behavior and human rights violations. If ZTE did in fact sell Dell equipment to Venezuela's government that was then used to spy on the people of Venezuela, it's possible ZTE violated its agreement with the U.S. Dell said it has no record of a sale to ZTE. No parties from the Venezuelan government or from ZTE commented on Reuters' story.

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