On May 19, the US telecommunications company AT&T announced, without prior notice, the suspension of DirecTV’s operations in Venezuela. DirecTV is a broadcast satellite service provider, transmitting digital television and radio signals to households in the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
In an official statement, AT&T said that due to the sanctions imposed by the US government on Venezuela, it was impossible for the company “to comply with the legal requirements of both countries” and it “was forced to close its pay TV service in Venezuela.”
The abrupt suspension of services was denounced by several social and political leaders and organizations.
Leonardo Flores, Latin America Campaign Coordinator for CodePink, was among those that condemned the action. “13 million Venezuelans just lost access to DirecTV, which stopped services due to US sanctions. Cruel for this to happen during COVID-19, seeing as how so many people rely on TV for education and news about the disease. No doubt there was US government pressure involved,” he tweeted.
A Venezuelan human rights NGO, Sures, also expressed its rejection of the suspension. In a statement, Sures said that “the economic blockade against Venezuela takes another victim: Freedom of expression. More than 300 TV and radio channels censored by Trump and AT&T. AT&T decides to suspend the transmission of all the direct TV channels in Venezuela for the fear of being sanctioned by the US.” The civil association also called on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to rule on the incident based on the special rapporteur for freedom of expression and access to information.
Thousands of Venezuelans criticized the far-right opposition leader and the US puppet, Juan Guaidó, for the measure. With hashtag #GraciasAGuaido (#ThanksToGuaido) on social networks, citizens trolled the deputy for defending and promoting the constant aggression from the US against the Bolivarian Republic and its people.
— johana herrera (@lagatajh81) May 20, 2020
The measure also affected the transmission of teleSUR in several countries across the region. It is a left-wing Latin American television and online news network, with its headquarters in Caracas, Venezuela.
The president of the teleSUR, Patricia Villegas, in an interview with the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina, explained that “the signal for DirecTV was distributed from Venezuela to other countries in the region, therefore the impact is great for our regional distribution.”
Through her twitter account, Villegas reiterated the commitment to seek alternatives to continue informing viewers of the daily events in the world. “We will continue looking for options to broadcast our signal. Search for teleSUR on cable operators, YouTube, or visit our website,” she tweeted.
In addition to teleSUR, Russia Today’s (RT) broadcasts were also affected. Last week, in a meeting in Miami, several US officials accused both media outlets of allegedly creating chaos in Latin America by covering the coronavirus pandemic and criticizing the US government and its allies in the region for their mismanagement of the disease.
In January, Guaidó threatened to silence teleSUR, claiming that it “supports terrorists”. For his intimidating remarks against the people’s media outlet, he received widespread national and international condemnation.