The socialist government of Venezuela has prohibited CNN en Español from broadcasting nationwide following a report exposing a Venezuelan plot to grant passports to Hezbollah terrorists. CNN International, which broadcasts more left-leaning programming, remains available.
Local newspaper El Nacional reported Wednesday that CNN en Español went off the air in Venezuela around 5:00 PM local time. The move followed dictator Nicolás Maduro demanding that CNN leave the country in a televised rant on Sunday which did not explicitly refer to its latest investigative report accusing Maduro of approving a plan to secure Venezuelan documentation for Middle Eastern terrorists.
The Venezuelan socialist government issued a statement through Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez on the matter. “The owners of the CNN television network lack morals,” she asserted, condemning the passport report as “at the service of the political agendas of the United States.”
The CNN report centered on the testimony of Misael López Soto, a former official at the Venezuelan embassy in Baghdad. López fled Iraq in 2015 after being pressured to issue birth certificates and passports to non-Venezuelan nationals with ties to Hezbollah. CNN caught up with López, whose story had not changed in two years. López claimed the Venezuelan embassy charged foreigners up to $15,000 per passport, and emphasized that these were not counterfeit documents, but legal Venezuelan documents improperly produced for non-Venezuelan nationals.
CNN en Español issued a statement condemning the censorship of the broadcast. “At CNN en Español we believe in the vital role that freedom of press plays in a healthy democracy… CNN en Español will continue to fulfill its responsibility to the Venezuelan public by offering our live signal on YouTube free of charge and news links on CNNEspanol.com.”
The network’s broadcast on Wednesday night focused on the Venezuelan socialist dictatorship’s oppression of human rights. Anchor Fernando del Rincón used Twitter to distribute online links for watching the network within Venezuela and featured a variety of human rights advocates on his program. Among them was Human Rights Watch’s José Miguel Vivanco, who called the censorship “ridiculous” and decried Maduro’s government as a “mafia” using the government to hide its ties with narco-terrorist organizations. Del Rincón also lent his platform to Lilian Tintori, wife of Venezuelan political prisoner Leopoldo López. Maduro’s courts sentenced López to 13 years in prison for organizing a peaceful protest in 2014.
Tintori used the airwaves to express solidarity with CNN en Español, asserting, “no censorship can obscure the truth.” She added that, during her meeting Wednesday with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Senator Marco Rubio, “I felt at the White House that their priority in foreign policy is Venezuela.” Trump himself, she added, was “very concerned” about human rights in her native country.
While CNN en Español is no longer available in Venezuela, its English-language counterpart remains untouched, according to Venezuelans on social media. CNN confirmed this finding in their announcement of the removal of CNN en Español from Venezuelan airwaves.
— Humberto Perozo S. (@kikoperozo) February 15, 2017
CNN International’s English-language broadcasts have pleased Maduro significantly more than CNN en Español historically. “CNN is always welcome to Venezuela,” Maduro told CNN interviewer Christiane Amanpour in 2014, shortly after threatening to expel CNN en Español. Amanpour used the opportunity to interview Maduro to ask, “What keeps you up at night?”