Venezuelan Government Pulls Plug on CNN

Venezuela's dispute with CNN stems from its reporting about an alleged visa racket at the country's embassy in Iraq.

The US Treasury department froze the US assets of El Aissami and the businessman, Samark Jose Lopez Bello, and banned US nationals from doing business with them.

Maduro demanded a public apology and a diplomatic complaint was lodged. CNN claims their reporting of Russian Federation potentially having compromising financial or personal information against Trump is part of its honorable First Amendment duty of "informing the people of the inner workings of their government".

Before he was extradited from Colombia in 2011, Venezuela's top convicted drug trafficker, Walid Makled, told authorities he paid bribes through El Aissami's brother to Venezuelan authorities so they would turn a blind eye to cocaine shipments that have proliferated in the country's ports and airports during the past two decades of socialist rule.

The drug allegations against El Aissami had already raised tensions between Washington and Caracas, which had so far been cautious in its stance towards the administration of new US President Donald Trump.

Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said Wednesday that the CNN report and the sanctions were intimately linked and part of a foreign media-backed conspiracy to remove Maduro.

The report named El Aissami as one of those behind the racket.

Venezuela has pulled the plug on CNN en Español after the network ran a report on how government officials had allegedly been involved in selling fake passports. The hardline former interior minister, 42, is next in line to Maduro and would take over if the opposition succeeded in its bid to oust the leader in a vote.

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.

Venezuela's government condemned USA sanctions on the country's vice president, saying Tuesday that the Trump administration's designation of Tareck El Aissami as a major drug trafficker represented an unprecedented and "highly dangerous" infringement on the South American nation's sovereignty.

Maduro criticized CNN on Wednesday night, calling it an "instrument of war in the hands of real mafias".

Conatel said it was opening an investigation into CNN en Español and had ordered all cable operators to suspend broadcasts.

CNN International, the English-language channel of the United States network, was not affected and remained on air.

The accusation relates to a report on the channel on alleged passport fraud at the Venezuelan embassy in Iraq.

  • Leroy Wright