Venezuela pulls Spanish-language CNN from air for ‘distorting truth’
CARACASVenezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government ordered the suspension of CNN’s Spanish-language service from Venezuela’s airwaves on Feb. 15, accusing it of distorting the truth in coverage.
U.S.-based ‘CNN en Espanol’ became unavailable on Venezuela’s major cable providers minutes after a statement by telecommunications regulator Conatel announcing the suspension.
The network had irked the socialist government with various reports, including one alleging passports and visas were being sold illegally at Venezuela’s embassy in Iraq.
Maduro at the weekend told CNN to “get out” of Venezuela after accusing it of manipulating comments by a girl who told him on live TV some school students were fainting from hunger.
“They defame and distort the truth...inciting aggression against the sovereignty of Venezuela and its institutions,” regulator Conatel said in its statement.
Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez also lambasted CNN, saying the whistleblower in the passports’ story was an opposition-linked Venezuelan working for “imperialist” agencies.
CNN en Espanol on Feb. 6 broadcast a report alleging that Venezuelan passports and visas had been sold at the Baghdad embassy to Arabs who the channel said may have been linked to terrorism.
CNN said the Maduro government was unfairly denying Venezuelans a 20-year news service they had enjoyed, but added that its signal would be available for free on YouTube.
“At CNN en Espaol we believe in the vital role that freedom of press plays in a healthy democracy,” it added.
The spat with the network has come at a delicate time in U.S.-Venezuelan ties after Washington this week blacklisted Maduro’s Vice President Tareck El Aissami on drug charges in the first bilateral flare-up under new U.S. President Donald Trump.
Venezuelan officials have reacted furiously to that, though they appear to be trying to avoid provoking Trump.
“I don’t want problems with Trump,” Maduro said on TV on Feb. 15, adding that CNN had become “an instrument of war.”
About an hour later, Trump called for the release of prominent jailed Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez in a tweet, posing in a photo with Lopez’s wife Lilian Tintori.
In various calls with Latin American leaders, Trump has expressed concern over the Maduro government, yet it remains to be seen whether Trump will prioritize Venezuela.
Rodriguez responded on Twitter late on Feb. 15.
“Venezuela rejects the interference and aggression of U.S. President Donald Trump,” she said.