Los Angeles Times
June 04, 2008
Hugo Chavez says the measure will help stem security threats, but many worry they could be jailed for not informing.
CARACAS, VENEZUELA -- Venezuelans may be forced to spy on their neighbors or risk prison terms under President Hugo Chavez's new intelligence decree.
Chavez says the law quietly decreed last week will help detect and neutralize national security threats, including assassination or coup plots. But many Venezuelans are worried that they could face prison for failing to act as informers.
Chavez's leftist government maintains links to community activist groups and also has set up neighborhood-level "communal councils" that decide how to spend government funds for community projects.
The law says community-based organizations may be called on to provide intelligence. Critics suspect that such groups could become like Cuba's Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, which often are forums for reporting neighbors' suspicious acts.