I heard this rumor that the government was handing out free tablets to public University students as part of the 6D campaign. Here in Ciudad Guayana, you hear that sort of thing every day, and they usually get stored in the “no vale, yo no creo” file.

But I kept hearing stories from my friends in public universities about how they had to sit through hours of mind-numbing government propaganda, stand in line under the sun, and a whole bunch other forms of humiliation, to get their freebie tablets.

At UNEG, people queued from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., during two days. And at UDO in Ciudad Bolívar, the pro-government student movement in charge, made students sign a petition to end the professors’ strike in order to give them the tablets.

Of course, this nice little perk of revolutionary studenthood is not for everyone, as one civil engineering student identified with the opposition found out when the organizers told him: “aquí no hay tablets pa’ escuálido.”

Ok, so my friends were getting freebies, or so they claimed. Since I remained skeptical (no vale, yo no creo), I decided to go to one of those things, just to see what happened.

María, my neighbor, is a student at UNEXPO. She tells me they are going to hand out tablets at her University, and lets me tag along. She knows I’ve got a story to write.

We take the bus to UNEXPO at 7:30 am. At the entrance of the University there’s an old man handing out free bibles.”Food for the soul,” he says to the passersby. Kids these days don’t exactly have Moses in mind when they hear “tablet”, so his freebies don’t find many takers.

Getting in is quite easy. Security consists of a couple normal looking dudes, no Guardia Nacional types here, asking for IDs and sometimes checking bags. I don’t have a UNEXPO ID, but an “I’m with her” was enough for them to let me slip by. Smooth.

Once in, María gives me a brief tour of the place. It isn’t pretty. No wonder they are always protesting. The metallurgy building is especially ugly. It’s poorly lit, and the roof is a chaos of cables and rusted metal that looks like it’s going to collapse any second. It

kind of looks abandoned, but there are loads of people everywhere. Many structures, including the tables and benches, are built with solid concrete, those are intact. A reminder from when they actually had proper budget.

At 9 a.m. people start organizing lines according to their family name initials. The idea is to have a line for every letter, it’s a clumsy ordeal that doesn’t seem to come together. At 10 a.m. the process is interrupted. Now everyone has to go to the football court to be briefed with “relevant information,” before whatever is going on can continue.

Canaimita Madness

Clearly they are handing out something, there’s a little mystery involved, but there is no way of linking the activity to a campaign event.

And then, it unravels.

The entrance to the roofed fútbolito court is guarded by two armed soldiers. Large speakers play loud joropo, there are tables and chairs for the organizers, some CANTV representatives, and Richard Rosa, a Unexpo alumn, who is a congressman and PSUV’s candidate to represent the 2nd Circuit of Caroní in the upcoming parliament elections.

Mr. Rosa hosted the event, clearly being the guy to thank for the free Bolivarian tech.

 

As expected, the “relevant information” is just a bunch of “saludos bolivarianos,” “thanks to the supreme commander,” and the like. One member of MERSUV (a chavista student movement) says that thanks to President Chávez and thanks to President Maduro they are getting their tablets today, some other say that they have to remember that on December 6th, when voting.

Not many people are actually listening. They know why they’re there. In fact, one guy says to me “I only applaud when I hear the words “tablets”; “Chávez,” or “Maduro,” I don’t even care.”

At about 11:00 a.m. the speeches end, and they send everyone back to the line at the metallurgy building. And again, they have to organize everyone by the initial of their last name. After some more ID checks, they send people back to the football court, for the fourth or fifth line (I don’t even know why any more).

I’ve lost hope that María will ever get her tablet.

We wait… and wait.

By 2:30 p.m. we are leaving the premises, tablet in hand, and with no major incidents.

Back at home, we tinker with María’s catch of the day.

If you can get over the fact that this crazy tablet giveaway is a slap in the face of University staff protesting for wage increases on the other side of the street, you’d realize that the Canaima Universitaria is actually quite nice.

It is fast, stylish and barely includes any government propaganda. It even comes with a keyboard/case.

On the software side, things are not so great though. It comes with the “Android Canaima” OS, which completely cripples an otherwise decent device. Instead of the Google Play app it comes with the Tienda Canaima, its lame doppelganger. In it you can download normal android apps like YouTube or Gmail, but most of them simply don’t work. As delivered, it’s just a flashy, dead gadget.

So, María got her tablet and I got my story. I was very much satisfied and, at the same time, disgusted with having confirmed the illegal campaigning going on at UNEXPO.

In a context of food and medicines shortages, this nationwide tablet giveaways are definitely salt on the wound.

Let’s just hope that these students, who seemed so happy with their new Canaimas Universitarias, don’t hold up their end of the votes-for-dosh bargain.

 

20 COMMENTS

  1. From my experience: I study at UPEL, in Maracay. I got my tablet yesterday, at ESCUBAFAN (Military High School) after a long, loooooong wait. I arrived at 6:30 AM and left at noon. I sat only for ten minutes before they handed methe tablet. Then, I signed a paper which is like the warranty. In my opinion, I’m glad to get this “gift” from the government, but it doesn’t buy my vote.
    P.S. I rooted the tablet, so i can run apps smoothly without problems (despite the 1GB RAM that has).

    • Everybody should probably be reflashing these things to vanilla Android. It’s not hard for a third party to be keylogging a compromised device and collecting data. It doesn’t require a great deal of technical competency either or even that much of an IT infastructure. All you need are userids and passwords on a flat file and the government can start opening up your Facebook, email, whatsapp, you name it.

      Wipe the entire thing clean and download new roms from a trusted source.

  2. I wonder if they can track information on the tablets. My understanding is that this is a feature that has been built into some Chinese manufactured products.

          • They are into espionage, both Mario Silva (formerly) and Diosdado regularly reference tapped calls and emails, but it’s targeted.

            I do believe that they’re too incompetent to run a massive surveillance system though, even if they control the technical apparatus to do so. Hence their forays into hiring third party services such as the Hacking Team.

          • I have often wondered why the Venezuelan state collects so much personal data, and wondered how they could possibly manage it all, or even care. But if they care, it is a pretty great way to go about getting all the stuff on a person, as Kepler points out. And if it is pretty straight forward to do, which I understand it is, why not? Free tablets…come and get ’em!

    • I know a bit about this and it’s actually trivially easy to do and does not require a large degree of skill or infastructure, and it’s why pimply 14 year olds in Russia do it for the lulz. I wouldn’t trust any OS the Venezuelan Government puts out to not be keylogging your usernames and passwords. Wipe the entire tablet clean and install vanilla Android.

  3. Same experience, and same outcome happened at Unermb, Ciudad Ojeda
    I was there, I even got one!.
    They made me fill a list with my name, ID, and phone number, nothing else, there was NO signature needed or asked, only personal info

  4. If you know a little bit, it’s trivially easy to reflash the device to proper Android. And it -should- be done before even attempting to use it for anything remotely private. I’d half expect CanaimaOs to not only be crippled, but f#$)(!! spyware.

  5. I always advice my customers to use a separate computer or device to check their banco de Venezuela accounts, because that god-forsaken bank shoves down their customers’ throats some crap named “clavedefensa” or something like that, which looks seemingly innocuous, until the minute your antivirus is screaming at the top of their lungs, jolting everytime that program opens, and the computer’s performance going down like a rock in a pond, which would easily pass as a worm-like virus.

    Many folks have brought their computers to “cleanup” and, well, that’s the only “bad stuff” hidden there.

  6. If I think the people who line up for days on end to buy the latest iPhone here in the US are complete idiots, I don’t even want to say the horrible things I think about people who line up for these Chinese knockoffs.
    One shouldn’t want for government handouts at this point, no matter what they are. And the day that people walk away from promises of canaimitas, lavadoras, secadoras, motos or casas (like they did with Ceausescu) is the day Chavismo will crumble.

    Alas, since viveza criolla is hard to stamp out, let’s hope that the tablets will crap out before 6D.

  7. SO …

    What good is a tablet if you have nothing to eat and no electricity?

    Also …

    What good is a university education in today’s Venezuela, if there is no place to work (Other than leaving for Chile, Panama or some other destination)?

  8. …and when you leave in search of a better life….take your Canaimita with you. It will make a nice tray or something somewhere else!

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