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CNN team denied right to cover Venezuela local elections

By Claudia Dominguez, CNN
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Sat May 24, 2014
  • CNN's Fernando del Rincón and his producer are denied accreditation in Venezuela
  • The CNN team intended to cover municipal elections in San Cristóbal, scene of protests
  • CNN has been criticized by Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro for its coverage
  • Students first took to the streets to protest in San Cristóbal in February

(CNN) -- A CNN team has been denied credentials to cover upcoming local elections in Venezuela.

A CNN en Español correspondent and producer appeared Friday at the Ministry of Communications in Caracas, and an official told them their credentials were denied.

When the crew asked for an explanation, the official said that "they didn't understand why CNN needed to send an anchor to cover local elections when there are two correspondents accredited in Venezuela."

The CNN team, including reporter Fernando del Rincón, intended to travel to the state of Táchira, where the most violent protests erupted in February in the southwestern city of San Cristóbal.

Opposition Mayor Daniel Ceballos was accused of civil rebellion and conspiracy after the government said he failed to stop violent protests in his city. He was jailed in March and given a 12-month sentence. The city of San Cristóbal has never had a pro-government mayor.

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San Diego Mayor Enzo Scarano was also jailed for 10 months after the government accused him of ignoring an order given by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to stop the protests.

The wives of both the mayors are running in the municipal elections Sunday. Ceballos' wife has no political experience, while Scarano's spouse is a city councilwoman.

CNN has been reporting on the protests since February when the attempted rape of a young student on a San Cristóbal university campus galvanized students, who took to the streets to speak out against crime, shortages, blackouts and a dire economic situation.

Students were jailed and, in solidarity, protests began in other cities.

In the course of CNN's coverage of the protests, del Rincón has been criticized by both President Nicolas Maduro and the president of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello.

An investigative piece by CNN showed that Cabello lied about alleged weapons found at a retired general's home. The picture that he used as evidence of the weaponry was of a gun shop in Wisconsin.

Human Rights Watch voiced concern in February that Venezuela was censoring the news media and highlighted Maduro's efforts to take CNN off the airwaves.

Clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces have left more than 40 people dead and around 800 injured since February, according to officials.

Maduro has said protesters are "fascists and extreme right thugs" who are trying to destabilize the government to promote a coup. Protesters call Maduro a dictator who has ruined the Venezuelan economy with failed socialist policies.

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