“Venezuela launched a Zeppelin on
Thursday to patrol Caracas, seeking to fight crime in one of
Latin America’s most dangerous cities but also raising fears
that President Hugo Chavez could be turning into Big Brother.
Around the hot-dog stalls of the run-down suburb where the
airship took its first flight, most people felt the unmanned
eye-in-the-sky could help counter routine hold-ups, shootings
and carjackings. “It is a necessity,” said street vendor Pedro Marin when
asked about the 15-meter helium-filled blimp that had been
looming silently over his stall beside a busy highway.
The $465,000 Zeppelin, built by South Korean firm HanGIS,
is the first of three such craft that will beam images into a
command center. Police will be able to control the blimps
remotely, steering them over the city of about 5 million.
In the refined cafes of east Caracas, there was more
cynicism, condemning the blimps as a waste of money that would
not work in bad weather or at night, when Caracas is at its
most risky, resembling a shuttered-up ghost town. “It reminds me of 1984, of George Orwell. This is Big
Brother. It is not going to solve crime,” said Jose Luis, a
lawyer who declined to give his family name.”
[image: The Venezuelan Anti-Crime Blimp]