Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela bans CNN after report alleges Iraq passport fraud

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (R) and his vice-president Tareck El Aissami participate in a rally with workers of PDVSA state-owned oil company in Carcas January 31, 2017. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (R) and his vice-president Tareck El Aissami

Venezuelan authorities have ordered that US broadcaster CNN's Spanish-language channel be taken off air, accusing it of spreading propaganda.

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

Venezuela's National Telecommunications Commission (Conatel) ordered "the immediate suspension of broadcasts".

Conatel accused the channel of attempting to "undermine the peace and the democratic stability" of Venezuela.

It did not specifically mention the passport story, but government officials had earlier in the day disputed it at a press conference.

The story was the product of a year-long investigation into allegations that Venezuelan passports and visas were being sold to people in Iraq, including some with terrorism links.

The report alleged that Venezuelan Vice-President Tareck El Aissami was directly linked to the granting of 173 passports, including to members of the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and other Western powers.

According to Venezuelan media, Conatel urged publishers and journalists to "provide timely and truthful information to our people, adjusted to the values of Venezuelan society".

Mr El Aissami has this week had sanctions imposed on him by the US for allegedly trafficking drugs. He was described by the US treasury as a drug "kingpin" who worked with traffickers in Mexico and Colombia to ship drugs to America.

He accused the US of "imperialist aggression" in response and President Nicolas Maduro demanded a public apology.

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