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AT&T Quits Venezuela as US Sanctions Force It to Defy Maduro

AT&T is the largest player in Venezuela's pay TV market.

AT&T said Tuesday it will immediately abandon Venezuela's pay TV market as U.S. sanctions prohibit its DIRECTV platform from broadcasting channels that it is required to carry by the socialist administration of Nicolas Maduro.

The Dallas-based company said its decision to close its unit is effective immediately.

"Because it is impossible for AT&T's DIRECTV unit to comply with the legal requirements of both countries, AT&T was forced to close its pay TV operations in Venezuela, a decision that was made by the company's U.S. leadership team without any involvement or prior knowledge of the DIRECTV Venezuela team," the company said in a statement.

AT&T is the largest player in Venezuela's pay TV market and was one of the last major American companies still operating in the crisis-wracked country.

But it has come under pressure of late for abiding by Maduro regulators' orders to remove some 10 channels such as CNN en Espanol that have broadcast anti-government protests and critical coverage of the country amid the past year's turmoil.

DIRECTV is also a major platform for the broadcast of state-run TV outlets criticized by the opposition as propaganda. It's also required to carry Globovision, a private network owned by a businessman close to Maduro who is wanted on U.S. money laundering charges.

While AT&T hasn't made money from its Venezuelan operations for years, the company was reluctant to close down its operations in Venezuela because of its 44% market share and its commitment to a satellite broadcast center from which DIRECTV beams about a third of its programming to several parts of South America.