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A gate blocks access to the DirectTV building in Caracas, Venezuela, on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

Venezuela orders takeover of AT&T’s local pay-tv carrier DirecTV

A gate blocks access to the DirectTV building in Caracas, Venezuela, on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

Venezuela’s Supreme Court ordered an immediate takeover of the country’s largest pay-television provider following the announcement by its US parent company that it would close its operations in the South American nation, citing US sanctions.

A DirecTV satellite dish is mounted outside a home in Caracas, Venezuela, on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (Photo: Bloomberg)

The country’s telecommunications regulator will take control of AT&T Inc.-owned DirecTV’s assets and infrastructure, including its office and commercial spaces as well as equipment to maintain services with the help of the armed forces, the high court said in a statement Friday.

Earlier this week, Dallas-based AT&T said it would shut down its operations in the South American nation because it was caught between US restrictions and the mandates of the Venezuelan government. AT&T has more than 600 DirecTV employees in the South American nation. AT&T did not immediately respond to the takeover announcement.

The Supreme Court also ordered telecom regulator Conatel to appoint a ad hoc board, headed up by Conatel’s general director, Jorge Marquez, to “guarantee the immediate restoration of paid TV services and guarantee the labour rights of all company employees.” The court also barred current board members from leaving the country.

DirecTV is the leader in the pay-television market in Venezuela, with 1.9 million users, or 45 per cent of the total, according to data published by Conatel in mid-2019. Venezuelans have protested the company’s departure by banging pots and pans from inside their homes in the early evening.