Beyond the never ending tear gas and rubber buckshot, it turns out the security forces have a second line of defense against the protests. Both the National Guard and the Bolivarian National Police (under orders of the Defense and Interior Ministries) are using spying tactics to infiltrate protests and identify its leaders.
This excellent report by El Nacional’s Javier Mayorca gives a detailed look at the nuts and bolts of this operation:
According to documents obtained by El Nacional, this espionage works by analyzing the activity of certain telephone numbers, tracking Whatsapp conversations, and scanning through video cameras and photographs to identify protest leaders, their support groups, slogans, methods, and areas of influence. If the authorities detain someone, in the follow-up investigations the cellphones of those arrested are held in order to cross-check calls and identify communication patterns…
The documents also describe the duties of police agents. In the case of the Bolivarian National Police (PNB), their officers must write a report about every street protest. It must indicate the time it began and the time it ended, the number of participants, the place where it took place, and if it’s possible, its leaders…”
The overall role of the National Guard and its handling of the protests in the last weeks has been harshly questioned by human rights activists. Special mention goes to the GNB’s actions and/or omissions in the deaths of several protesters.