Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro threatened Thursday to remove CNN from the air if it does not “rectify” its coverage of political turmoil in the Latin American country.
“CNN will leave Venezuela – enough of war propaganda,” the left-wing leader told bus company workers in remarks broadcast on national television. “If they do not rectify themselves, out of Venezuela! CNN Out!”
Maduro said he had already instructed Communication Minister Delcy Rodríguez to inform CNN that an administrative process has begun to remove the network from the air if it does not mend its ways.
The El Universal newspaper said Maduro accused CNN of airing “war programs” 24 hours a day. “They want to show the world that Venezuela is facing a civil war,” he said.
Student protests against the Maduro government began earlier this month, and drew international attention when three people were killed after a rally on February 12.
The government accused opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez of inciting the violence in what it called a coup attempt and issued a warrant of arrest for him. Lopez handed himself over on Tuesday and faces charges of inciting violence, conspiracy, arson and damaged to public property.
Maduro this week expelled three U.S. consular officials, accusing them of holding meetings with students involved in the anti-government protest movement. The State Department called the allegations baseless, saying the officials were involved in outreach activities relating to student visas which take place around the world.
“We have seen many times that the Venezuelan government tries to distract from its own actions by blaming the United States or other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said earlier this week. “These efforts reflect a lack of seriousness on the part of the Venezuelan government to deal with the grave situation it faces.”
Maduro, who was handpicked by the late President Hugo Chavez to take forward his “21st century socialism” vision, was elected president last April, narrowly defeating challenger Henrique Capriles amid opposition claims of irregularities.
Like Chavez, Maduro has on several occasions accused his political rivals of plotting coups against him, with covert U.S. support.
Capriles has called for a peaceful anti-government march on Saturday