CARACAS Feb 15 President Nicolas Maduro's
government ordered the suspension of CNN's Spanish-language
service from Venezuela's airwaves on Wednesday, accusing it of
distorting the truth in coverage.
U.S.-based 'CNN en Espanol' became unavailable on some 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 that Venezuelan passports and
visas were being sold illegally at the embassy in Iraq.
President Nicolas Maduro at the weekend had told CNN to "get
out" of Venezuela after accusing it of manipulating comments by
a student who had told him on live TV of problems at a school,
including students 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.
"Conatel ordered as a precautionary measure the suspension
... of all CNN en Espanol transmissions in the national
Foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez also lambasted CNN on
Wednesday, saying the whistleblower in the passports' story was
an opposition-linked Venezuelan working for "imperialist"
CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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
Wednesday, adding that CNN had become "an instrument of war".
In various calls with Latin American leaders, Trump has been
expressing concern over the Maduro government, though it remains
unclear how much of a foreign policy priority Venezuela
OPEC member Venezuela is immersed in a deep economic crisis,
with inflation in triple digits, shortages of basic goods, and
many people going hungry.
Maduro, whose popularity has plunged during the crisis,
blames the problems on an "economic war" waged by the United
States and local opponents with the complicity of foreign media.
Opponents say he has become a dictator, jailing opponents,
sidelining the opposition-led congress and delaying local
elections. Government officials say opponents are seeking a
Foreign journalists are finding it increasingly hard to
obtain visas to operate in Venezuela, and two Brazilian
reporters said they were expelled at the weekend while trying to
investigate unfinished works by construction giant Odebrecht.
(Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Andrew Hay)