DirecTV Executives Jailed & Accused of Destabilizing the Venezuelan Economy

Earlier this week, Venezuelan authorities arrested three local DirecTV executives after the service was cut off in the country. Now, Vice has reported that the three are accused of fraud and an attempt to destabilize the economy of the country.

AT&T made the decision to end service in Venezuela “because it is impossible for AT&T’s DIRECTV unit to comply with the legal requirements of both countries,” the company said in a statement. U.S. government sanctions in the country prohibited the broadcast of Globovision and PDVSA’s channels, both of which are required under DirecTV’s license to provide pay TV service in Venezuela.

Carlos Villamizar, VP of strategy for DirecTV; Hector Rivero, general manager of DirecTV Venezuela; and Rodolfo Carrano, VP of commercial for DirecTV are being represented by lawyer Jesús Loreto who is calling their detainment unjust. Villamizar said he had no prior knowledge of the service ending and wasn’t aware that they were committing a crime, commenting that he was “very, very surprised,” at the warrant issued against him and the other two men.

Venezuela Supreme Tribunal of Justice posted an announcement of the arrest on its website and Facebook page, saying that the three had been detained “for the alleged commission of the crimes of co-authorship – in accordance with article 83 of the Penal Code – for the commission of crimes of aggravated fraud in a real contest, provided for and sanctioned in article 462, numeral 2 and 88 of the Penal Code; boycott, typified in article 53 of the Organic Law of Fair Prices; destabilization of the economy, in accordance with article 54 of the Organic Law of Fair Prices.”

The group’s lawyer said the three “did not participate in what happened, they did not know what was happening.”

DirecTV controls about 44% of the Venezuelan TV market. When the U.S. pulled service from the country, it left around 2 million customers without any service options, at a time when the country had issued stay at home orders in an effort to slow the coronavirus pandemic. Vice reports that DirecTV had been employing around 700 workers in the area.

Service was suspended on May 19, 2020. Three days later, the Venezuelan Supreme Court issued an order to seize all company assets, including satellite dishes and office space. The arrests were made the weekend of June 5.

Lori Lee, CEO of AT&T Latin America, made a statement reported by PBS, calling the arrests “inexplicable” and saying that the men had nothing to do with the shutdown of the service. “To the contrary, this decision was taken by AT&T executives in the United States, without the knowledge or participation of these individuals or any other former Venezuelan employees,” Lee said.

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