CNN investigation revealed Venezuelan authorities may have given passports to people tied to terrorism
Venezuela government says the reports are "an absolute lie"
The Venezuelan government Wednesday ordered cable providers to take CNN en Español off the air, days after CNN aired an investigation into the alleged fraudulent issuing of Venezuelan passports and visas.
The network “instigates religious, racial and political hatred,” violence and other themes, National Telecommunications Commission Director Andres Eloy Mendez said Thursday morning on state-run VTV.
The commission told cable companies to pull CNN en Español’s signal immediately. It called the action a preventative measure and did not say when CNN en Español would be back on cable systems.
Mendez told VTV that the decision is connected to “the constitutional and human guarantees of all citizens.” He read a statement in which he said CNN’s reports “defame and distort the truth” and “threaten the peace and democratic stability of our Venezuelan nation, as they generate a climate of intolerance.”
Foreign Minister Delcy Rodríguez accused CNN of performing what she defined as an “imperialistic media operation” against her country in last week’s broadcast of the yearlong investigation.
The opposition-controlled National Assembly condemned the commission’s decision as anti-democratic.
It “gravely affects the human right Venezuelans have to be informed,” the legislative body said in a statement.
CNN and CNN en Español’s investigation, “Passports in the Shadows,” uncovered serious irregularities in the issuing of Venezuelan passports and visas, including allegations that passports were given to people with ties to terrorism.
The story, which began airing last week on both networks, revealed a confidential intelligence document that links Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami to 173 Venezuelan passports and IDs issued to individuals from the Middle East, including people connected to the terrorist group Hezbollah.
The two-part report threatened “the peace and democratic stability of our Venezuelan people since they generate an environment of intolerance,” the government said.
El Aissami has not responded to multiple requests for comment over several months. Rodríguez said the investigation is “an absolute lie.”
CNN en Español released a statement after the government’s action.
“At CNN en Español we believe in the vital role that freedom of press plays in a healthy democracy,” the network said through a spokesperson. “Today the government of Venezuela pulled our television signal, denying Venezuelans news and information from our television network, which they have relied upon for 20 years.
“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, so they may have access to information not available to them in any other way.
“This happens days after we aired our investigation ‘Passports in the Shadows’ which revealed that Venezuelan authorities may have issued passports and visas to people with ties to terrorism.
“CNN stands by our network’s reporting and our commitment to truth and transparency.”
Another one of Turner Broadcasting System’s cable networks, CNN International, still is being telecast in Venezuela.
The move by the Venezuelan government comes just two days after US authorities said El Aissami is an international drug trafficker and slapped severe sanctions on him.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro denounced the allegations made by the US Treasury Department. Maduro called the US charges “an aggression which Venezuela will respond to step by step, with balance and forcefulness.”
CNN’s Flora Charner contributed to this report.