Venezuelan authorities have jailed three local DirecTV executives under an arrest warrant issued after the Dallas-based company abruptly cut off services to the South American country last month, citing US sanctions against the socialist government, the men’s lawyer said Friday and reported by Associated Press.
Carlos Villamizar, one of the three men, told reporters in his attorney’s office before surrendering that he had no prior knowledge that the services were being ended and that he was innocent of any crimes.
“It was a total surprise,” he said, “I’m innocent.”
DirecTV employed some 600 staff prior to the closure of the unit. Days after AT&T cut the service, Venezuela’s high court ordered the nation’s telecommunications agency to seize satellite dishes and office space at transmission centers. It also said DirecTV programming should immediately return to the airwaves, in an order that was not likely to be heeded.
The two other executives, Héctor Rivero and Rodolfo Carrano, were arrested Thursday, said lawyer Jesús Loreto, who is representing the trio. He called their detention unjust, saying the men had cooperated with authorities, appearing this week first at chief prosecutor’s office and then the Venezuelan Supreme Court.
All three of the men are Venezuelan citizens, said Loreto, adding that he didn’t know the charges. Whatever the men were accused of was “senseless,” he said.
Lori Lee, CEO of AT&T Latin America, said in a statement to AP that the arrests were “inexplicable” considering that the three executives in Venezuela had nothing to do with the shutting down 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.