AT&T pulls DirecTV from Venezuela, citing sanctions

AT&T said Tuesday (May 19) it was shutting down DirecTV access in Venezuela, cutting off a key source of entertainment for millions of people stuck at home.

The announcement comes amid U.S. sanctions meant to force President Nicolas Maduro from office.

Local Venezuelan laws require TV subscription services to carry channels run by the government, but the U.S. sanctions prohibit companies like DirecTV from contracting with state agencies.

DirecTV was the country's most popular television service, and local residents like Aura Leon were despondent about the news.

"I called my son and he explained to me what was happening. He told me that DirecTV wasn't going to exist anymore. He explained to me what was happening and I was in shock. This shouldn't happen because kids pay the consequences of all these things they do. Children are not to blame for what is happening."

DirecTV has been a mainstay of Venezuela's poor neighborhoods for years, where the company's antennas can be easily seen on the roofs of ramshackle houses.

It provided a range of foreign channels as alternatives to the country's local television industry, which has been battered by the country's ongoing economic crisis.

Analyst William Pena says the cancelation of DirecTV operations leaves 2 million homes in Venezuela without television and 600 employees out of work.

"Unfortunately, this affects half of the Venezuelan population in a significant way. In Venezuela it has always been a cheap service -- the cost of a DirecTV service is around $1 per month or maybe less."

Some users reported seeing their screens go blank, while others said they continued to receive foreign channels but no local ones.

It was not immediately clear how long it would take for the shutdown to take effect, and Venezuela's information ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

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