AT&T Shuts down DirecTV in Venezuela over Sanctions

The National Assembly will investigate the “rash decision” that affects 600 workers and two million households.

By Lucas Koerner
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DirecTV serves approximately two million homes, including residents of working class barrios. (AP)
DirecTV serves approximately two million homes, including residents of working class barrios. (AP)

Santiago de Chile, May 21, 2020 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Texas-based telecommunications giant AT&T announced Tuesday the immediate suspension of its popular satellite television service in Venezuela.

“Because it is impossible for AT&T’s DirecTV unit to comply with the legal requirements of both countries, AT&T was forced to close its pay TV operations in Venezuela,” the conglomerate said in a statement.

Under Venezuelan law, cable and satellite providers are obligated to dedicate eight percent of their total programming to nationally broadcast channels, including state-run PDVSA TV and privately-held Globovision.

However, US sanctions prohibit unauthorized dealings with Venezuelan state entities, including state-run television stations.

Opposition-aligned Globovision was targeted by the US Treasury Department in January 2019 for alleged “illicit foreign exchange operations,” while state oil company PDVSA has been hit by successive rounds of sanctions since 2017.

According to Venezuelan telecommunications watchdog CONATEL, DirecTV is the largest subscription television provider in Venezuela, controlling nearly 45 percent of the market.

The service cutoff will reportedly impact around two million households as well as the company’s 600 local employees.

DirecTV workers have denounced that they were notified of the company’s decision via email and that severance payments would be deposited in their bank accounts.

For its part, the National Assembly’s media commission said on Tuesday it was opening an investigation into AT&T’s “rash decision” so as to protect the rights of workers and consumers. Likewise, a civil society group calling itself the “Customer Front in Defense of Communications Rights” urged the country’s Supreme Court to file an injunction against the multinational.

Several US-based companies have terminated their Venezuela operations out of fear of violating US sanctions. Software giants such as Adobe and Oracle announced the suspension of their Venezuela services in October 2019. Adobe’s decision was subsequently reversed after the Treasury Department granted the company a special license.

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