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Venezuela’s Maduro Demands CNN Leave the Country Following Hezbollah Link Report

AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos

“CNN better not stick its nose in Venezuela… I want CNN very far away from here,” Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro told the audience during his regular television program on Sunday. CNN recently published a report accusing Maduro of allowing the fabrication of government documents for non-Venezuelan Hezbollah terrorists.

“Some media outlets, like CNN, tried to manipulate, they cannot manipulate,” Maduro told the audience. “Guys CNN better get very far, I want CNN very far from here, CNN – out!”

The Argentine outlet Infobae reports that the context for Maduro’s comments appeared to be a socialist student raising the issue of impoverished schools and corruption among education officials in the country. Maduro appeared to be protesting CNN reports on Venezuela’s collapsing government infrastructure.

In the past week, however, CNN has raised a much more alarming concern regarding the Venezuelan government: the years-old evidence indicating that the socialist Chavista government has been issuing birth certificates, passports, and other essential government documents to non-Venezuelan citizen members of the jihadist terrorist group Hezbollah.

Last week, CNN aired an interview with former Venezuelan embassy official Misael López Soto, who fled his position at the Venezuelan embassy in Baghdad in November 2015. López published a video on YouTube at the time accusing his embassy of creating genuine Venezuelan documents in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars for citizens of Middle Eastern countries.

Some, he suggested, were merely attempting to escape the war-ravaged region, but many others had ties to Hezbollah. These individuals, López stated, would pay up to $15,000 for such a document. He emphasized that these would not be fake government documents, but legitimately-processed documents for individuals ineligible to receive them.

As the CNN report noted, López’s accusations remained consistent over two years and echoed the results of an extensive report by Spanish journalist Emili Blasco, author of Boomerang Chávez. Blasco’s book accused late dictator Hugo Chávez of sending his foreign minister, Nicolás Maduro, to Damascus to meet with Bashar al-Assad and Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, to agree on the passport scheme.

The episode on Sunday is not the first time Maduro has demanded that CNN leave his country. In 2014, following the arrest of Popular Will opposition leader Leopoldo López, Maduro went on television to describe CNN as “war programming” and announce that he would “kick them out of Venezuela.” CNN reporters suffered robberies while attempting to interview López’s wife, Lilian Tintori.

Maduro has largely limited his criticism to CNN en Español, which has run several critical reports of his socialist regime and exposed its corruption. Maduro welcomed American CNN interviewer Christiane Amanpour shortly after expelling CNN en Español, telling Amanpour, “CNN is always welcome here.”

Maduro’s opposition to journalists exposing his regime’s abuses is not limited to CNN. Shortly before a major anti-socialist protest in September, Maduro’s police deported journalists from Miami Herald, Le Monde, Al Jazeera, NPR, and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Last week, Venezuelan police arrested and deported Brazilian journalists who had traveled to the country to investigate the corruption scandal currently consuming the Brazilian corporation Odebrecht.

Domestic journalists, rather than find themselves deported, are regularly beaten and robbed.