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DirecTV restarts services in Venezuela

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Caracas (AFP)

Satellite television network DirecTV has begun to restore services to its subscribers in Venezuela nearly three months after it shut operations due to US sanctions against the South American country, the telecoms authority said Friday.

Dozens of channels offered by DirecTV, owned by American telecoms giant AT&T, are again available through intermediary company Scale Capital, the National Telecoms Commission (Conatel) said on its Twitter account.

On May 19 AT&T announced its withdrawal from the pay TV market in Venezuela after it was caught between obeying US sanctions against President Nicolas Maduro's government and complying with the terms of its license in the Latin American country.

On its website, Scale Capital says it is an investment company with offices in Miami, London and Santiago.

Scale said it would offer DirecTV's services free for 90 days, using DirecTV's infrastructure.

In a televised broadcast, Maduro confirmed the resumption of DirecTV services and praised the efforts of Conatel to reach an agreement with Scale Capital to achieve the result, while criticizing the "criminal sanctions" imposed by Washington.

Scale Capital said it was completing the purchase of shares in Galaxy Entertainment of Venezuela SAT III R CA and Galaxy Entertainment of Venezuela, CA (DirecTV Venezuela), whose facilities and equipment were placed under government control after a Supreme Court order on May 22 to seize DirecTV's facilities and equipment.

Three DirecTV executives arrested in early June and held at the Venezuelan intelligence service headquarters have been released, their lawyer Jesus Loreto told AFP.

DirectTV's departure had left two million subscribers in limbo, with soccer fans deprived of the popular Futbol Total program which was broadcast by DirecTV Sports for Latin America.

Under the terms of its pay TV license granted by Maduro's government, DirectTV was obliged to carry private news network Globovision and PDVSA TV.

Texas-based AT&T said in May it was forced to close the television operation because US sanctions banned the transmission of Globovision and PDVSA TV, the channel of the Venezuelan state oil company.

Under President Donald Trump, Washington has been seeking to oust the leftist Maduro. The Venezuelan president, many of his top government allies and PDVSA are all subject to US sanctions.

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