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Airships to Patrol Venezuela's Skies 451

bprime writes "The BBC reports that officials in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, have bought three airship UAVs to keep tabs on the local populace. From the article: 'The 15 metre (49 foot) long air ships are emblazoned with government slogans. Written in bright red are the words, We watch over you for your security.' They're not exactly black helicopters, but how long do you think until we see similar measures in high-crime American cities?"
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Airships to Patrol Venezuela's Skies

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  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @03:30PM (#18815617)

    The summary asks, "how long do you think until we see similar measures in high-crime American cities?" Didn't I read about surveillance blimps already in the air over Washington DC, several years ago? Google says, YES []!

  • by EccentricAnomaly ( 451326 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @03:35PM (#18815687) Homepage
    The LAPD is already trying to use UAV's in Los Angeles. The only thing holding them up is a squabble with the FAA. ded-disciplinary-action-possible/ []
  • by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @03:41PM (#18815775)
    I never realized before that the medeivals had included video cameras in the ornamentation on the steeples of Westminster Abbey.
  • Re:Damn! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Rei ( 128717 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @04:00PM (#18816115) Homepage
    This seems to be OK with the people. That just surprises me since it doesn't really add that much to the safety and has the very likely possibility of being abused.

    It doesn't surprise me one bit. It's easy to scoff at people willing to give up civil liberties for the prospect of safety from our ivory towers at home. It's an entirely different thing to live it.

    I have a friend who immigrated from Peru to the US. She is a staunchly anti-Bush person and considers him an overreaching warmongerer who wishes he was a dictator and is taking steps in that direction. She's a major civil liberties and human rights advocate. Yet, in Peru, she was a supporter of hardline dictator Alberto Fujimori. Knowing just these two facts, one may well say, "what gives?" and see this as contradictory. Yet, when you talk to her about life in Peru when she grew up, it's not hard to understand where she's coming from.

    In her early life, she grew up in a town called Tayabamba, out in the Andes. The sort of place for which it was a real journey just to get to the next town. When Shining Path started sweeping across the countryside, this was a real threat -- not a mostly imaginary threat like American paranoia about terrorism. The group kept its membership up by sweeping through villages and rounding up all of the men who could carry a gun; people were terrified of them. Later, she moved to Lima, and there had to worry about the drug lords. They would call "strikes" to punish the country; what this basically meant was that if they saw you going to work, they'd shoot you on the spot.

    Fujimori largely changed this. He launched a brutal crackdown on Shining Path. When members fled to the universities, which were constitutionally protected from raids, he ignored the laws and sent in troops anyways (greatly angering the students). When drug lords called "strikes", he essentially declared martial law and dispatched the military to the street. Armored vehicles would pick up anyone who was afraid to work and take them all the way there. Fujimori himself stood in the middle of the street downtown, daring them to shoot him, to demonstrate that they had no power over the city. The same sort of thing happened with corruption and monopolies; he largely disregarded the law in his quest to take down the Peruvian equivalent of our 19th century robber barons. Imagine where, if you wanted to buy a bar of soap, it was not only ridiculously priced, but you had to buy it as part of a "bundle" with other, less popular products that weren't selling. That's the sort of control that these people had over the market. While most of Peru lived in utter poverty, these people lived in obscene luxury.

    Then there's just plain regular crime. My friend's brother once had the shoes stolen right off his feet. Literally. People would go around in pairs -- one would grab the victim from behind and lift him up while the other grabbed the legs and untied the shoes. They weren't emotionless thugs, like a lot of American crime seems; they were just desperate people who really needed the money they could get from selling his shoes, simply in order to eat. They even left him a pair of flip flops to wear home. When people would go to parties, they'd often wear cheap shoes and other clothing on the way there, then change into the nicer stuff when they neared or arrived at their destination so that they wouldn't appear rich and get mugged. This sort of crime was everywhere, part of the daily reality you had to consider for everything you did. When she moved to the US, she had to get used to not having to do all of her old anti-theft habits.

    If people see a blimp as having the potential to even reduce these sort of crimes, I'm not surprised that they'd welcome them with open arms.
  • Re:Damn! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AoT ( 107216 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @04:02PM (#18816145) Homepage Journal
    The ayatollah

    I don't think we should put the Ayatollah in this catagory. He may have wanted totalitarian power, but compared to nearby Saudi Arabia Iran is a libertarian utopia.
  • Re:Damn! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hazem ( 472289 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @04:07PM (#18816201) Journal
    He probably got the idea from the blimps all along the US border with Mexico. I'd have to dig through my old army photos, but I have pictures of one you could see from Ft. Huachuca.

    Word is they were to watch the border, but who really knows WHAT they're looking and listening for.
  • by ArcherB ( 796902 ) * on Friday April 20, 2007 @04:12PM (#18816281) Journal

    Finally, how is this any different than all the cameras on every street corner in cities like London?

    It's not any different and it's just as disturbing that no one seems to give a fuck. Those that do happen to give a fuck are labeled terrorists, anti-American, sympathizers, and troublemakers.

    Why would those opposed to London cameras be labeled as "anti-American"? Again, you prove my point. Does everything have to lead back to America being bad?

    And, you have to admit that those London street cameras helped quite a bit in tracking down the London train and bus bombers. Like 'em or not, they are effective as long as they are not abused. As for Venezuela, you can bet they will be abused.

  • by CompMD ( 522020 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @04:26PM (#18816507)
    It isn't just a petty squabble with the FAA that is keeping UAVs out of civil airspace. There are major legislative hurdles to overcome before government bodies can even get CLOSE to flying UAVs, let alone over populated areas. The military has an extremely difficult time getting COAs to fly their own equipment around, what makes you think that some police department is going to get away with it? Sure, you might think that the legislation will just get pushed through. You clearly underestimate the power of the AOPA and their lobbying skills.

    The FAA puts up one hell of a fight to fly a proven, safe UAV *FIVE MILES* from a municipal airport in the middle of nowhere Kansas to a restricted airspace controlled by the military and not the DoD. Sorry, there is no "eye in the sky" coming for us anytime soon.
  • Re:Damn! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Assassin bug ( 835070 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @04:27PM (#18816539) Journal

    Fujimori himself stood in the middle of the street downtown, daring them to shoot him, to demonstrate that they had no power over the city.

    Interesting. I wonder how much Fujimori [] payed Shining Path [] to play chicken. This might sound snarky, but it wouldn't be unpresidented. I'm not questioning your friends reasoning for supporting him (I've never lived there, so I don't know), but when Peron [] took power in Argentina many enjoyed prosperity while anyone who was suspected of opposition to any of his positions just vanished. I would have been very suspicious about Fujimori's "crackdown" on Shining Path. Just my 2cents.
  • by Nicolas MONNET ( 4727 ) <> on Friday April 20, 2007 @04:30PM (#18816573) Journal
    Carter's organisation vetted the elections.

    Their results are also surprisingly consistent with independtly performed polls and exit pollings -- unlike in the US of A! Remember 2004? That wasn't long ago.

    Plus Venezuelian voting machines (that's bad) are Open Source (that's good). Unlike Diebold's.
  • Re:Hmmm, (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 20, 2007 @04:30PM (#18816577)
    This is not a new govt at all. It's now nearing 9 miserable years of old. Here the murderers, drug traffickers and thieves govern the country and decent folk are locked up in their own houses.

    Venezuelans *don't* want this bastard in power, but since he controls the voting apparatus, the supreme court, the police, the army with a little help from Venezuela's oil which he wields as his own and a little help from international cronies like Jimmy Carter, there he goes, aiming for perpetuity in power.

    Venezuela doesn't want this, but the rest of the world doesn't give a hoot ... unless the oil stops flowing.
  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @04:32PM (#18816617) Homepage
    One of the main hobbies of the Mujahadeen during the Soviet occupation years was knocking down jet fighters with small arms.

    All it takes is one well aimed shot by someone trained by the US Marine Corps.

    The Mujahadeen didn't even bother to aim really. Let any real marksman take a crack at the problem and those things will be falling like rain.
  • Re:Damn! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pentavirate ( 867026 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @04:37PM (#18816713) Homepage Journal
    I've lived in Venezuela. The shenanigans of our politicians have nothing on Venezuelan politicians. Hugo Chavez was behind two failed coups against then president Perez back in 1992. I doubt if he's above keeping power any way he can.
  • Re:Damn! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @04:55PM (#18817023) Journal
    You know something I've been wondering about that:
    Do they record the footage from each and every camera?
    How long do they retain the footage?
    How on earth do they catalog and index the footage?

    I mean at some point there is just too much data to monitor isn't there?
  • Re:Damn! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Björn ( 4836 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @05:29PM (#18817557)
    I am not sure about Sweden's particulars but in the USA for example it now appears that presidential campaign costs will run into hundreds of millions of dollars.

    The dominating income for Swedish political parties are state subsidies. The amount is proportional to the result in the previous election. Of cause you have to get into the parliament first, and to do that you have to get at least 4% of the votes.

    And yes, no system of rule can be perfect, the world is too complicated and full of conflicting goals.

  • by yfarren ( 159985 ) <yossi&farvi,com> on Friday April 20, 2007 @06:25PM (#18818203) Homepage

    Wow. See, the thing is, when I read your post, I laughed. I thought you were being funny. Then I continued reading, and realized you were serious. That made me laugh harder.

    Lets go through, point by point:

    Would your friend have felt better if we'd made Iraq our 51st state first? Then we would be fighting them on our own territory, rather than that of another country. Either way, the fight would have been exactly the same thing!

    We are morally justified in fighting with them (whoever "they" are in Iraq. I don't really know, do you? Oh, right, yes, the "Insurgents". That makes it so much clearer. Please, before you say something else stupid, read soldiers talking about how THEY don't know who they are fighting, which is part of the reason why things like Haditha keep happening), cause we could have claimed their country as ours, and then we would be fighting them in OUR land. I mean, we could say the same thing about France (were we to invade). "Well we could just make FRANCE our 51st state, so we are justified in fighting them, cause if we had they would have fought with us, so they are fighting with us now, so it is the EXACT SAME THING". (that is the line that made me laugh.

    Fact: Saddam sponsored terrorism. Among his other acts, was paying rewards to families of suicide bombers who blow themselves up in Israel. That alone is enough to condemn him.

    Well, now that IS true. Not particularly Relevant, but true. I mean, if you were talking about Israel Invading Iraq, THEN it would make sense. But, well, I mean, Person C hit Person D. That Gives Person U the right to beat the living crap out of C? And before you say "well, that is just the terrorism I mentioned. There were others." Why don't you mention them in the first place. I mean, when someone brings and irrelevant prooftext, it makes me think they dont have a relevant one.

    Fact: Terrorism knows no boundaries, nor will being nice to terrorists make them your friends.

    The second part I wholly agree with. I am not sure I should, consider, for instance, the IRA. But, I do. Actually, though, the vast majority of terrorism is very local. 9/11 is not a proof to the contrary, it is a horrific exception. Where was Timothy McVeigh from? Oklahoma you say? Those Suicide Bombers In Israel? Why, as soon as the seperation fence went up, their numbers dropped dramatically. I don't really know enough about Indonesia, or Spain.

    Fact: This is a war, and failure to recognize and admit this is the first step to losing it.

    This is a war we started. By Choice. And, in so doing we de-stabalized a fairly stable, non-threatening state. Committing virtually all of our military strength to an area, that, before we went there, wasnt a threat. Giving other places (Iran anyone?) who are a threat to us, a much greater sense of security, in threatening us. What do you think losing is, if not what we are doing now? Bleeding our troops, exhausting them, wrecking their battle-readiness. Oh, and bleeding our economy at a rate of, 200? 300 BILLION dollars a year?

    Fact: We fight them there, or we fight them here. Your choice. I've already made mine.

    This is the one that really pisses me off. Makes me want to say something like, you stupid arrogant FUCK. Now, if you have served in the army, if you have lived in a tent, and not seen your family or loved ones for months or years at a time, then, really I apologize, and you really have a right to say that. Otherwise, you probably, like the vast majority of Americans, don't do a damn thing. I am just guessing, that you, like our president, don't know a fucking THING about what it mean to fight them there (I, just in case you are intersted, HAVE been in the army, though not the American one (I have Dual citizenship with and was drafted in Israel), and DO know what it is to spend months in the dessert in a

  • by arielCo ( 995647 ) on Friday April 20, 2007 @08:58PM (#18819665)

    I happen to *live* in Caracas, and the prevailing view is not one of the government spying on us (we have lower standards regarding privacy than the US or European countries), but many rather view this as an utterly useless expense. Besides the simple fact that a manageable number of balloons cannot possibly watch every alley and corner:

    • The undermanned, outgunned police will get to the scene only to take the statement from the victim, assuming he/she stays there that long after being mugged.
    • Any recording will be useless since cops don't dare raiding the slums where most badass burglars can be found.
    • To catch said crook when he hits again, they have to actually patrol their hunting grounds, which brings us back to square one, only $1.3M poorer (an average cop makes no more than $10K a year).

    Then there's the certainty that the balloons will be shot at for the sheer fun of it, as a huge inflatable Santa deployed every year on the side of a building can attest to. The balloons are naturally partitioned to account for that, but given a finite number of compartments and a practically endless supply of bullets and shooters...

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian