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A supporter of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez sets fire to a barricade during a protest against Nicolas Maduro A supporter of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez sets fire to a barricade during a protest against Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas February 19, 2014. Tensions have risen in Venezuela since Lopez, a 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist, surrendered to troops on Tuesday after spearheading three weeks of often rowdy demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro's government. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins (VENEZUELA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTX195I7  

‘A group of fascists’: CNN rebuffed by Venezuela for covering protests [VIDEO]

Growing protests against Venezuela’s bumbling and corrupt Communist regime have been met with an increasingly heavy-handed police response — and it appears the government is now intent on continuing the crackdown without media scrutiny.

CNN reports that the Venezuelan government has revoked their reporters’ press passes and ordered them out of the country for their coverage of the protests, which began in the capital Caracas and expanded to many Venezuelan cities. The news comes just hours after a fiery speech by President Nicolas Maduro, who took over as head of state of the death of Communist revolutionary Hugo Chavez last spring.

“They want to show the world that there is a civil war in Venezuela,” he exclaimed, accusing the news network of deliberately fomenting the unrest. “Enough war propaganda. I do not accept war propaganda against Venezuela. If they do not rectify things, get out of Venezuela, CNN, get out.”

Maduro went on to call CNN reporters “a group of fascists with their aggressions want to take us away from peace. They are not going to do that. And we are going to show them.”

A few hours later, seven reporters for CNN International and CNN en Español were told by government officials that their credentials had been revoked and ordered to make arrangements to leave the country. The government has not yet taken the television channel itself off the air.

CNN en Español, which was seeking an interview with President Maduro just before the expulsion, released a statement Friday. ”CNN has reported both sides of the tense situation in Venezuela, even with very limited access to government officials,” it read. ”We hope the government will reconsider its decision. Meanwhile, we will continue reporting on Venezuela in the fair, accurate and balanced manner we are known for.”

It’s not CNN’s first run-in with the Venezuelan law since the protests began. On Wednesday, the network’s reporters claimed that “a group of armed thugs” on motorcycles stole all their equipment at gunpoint. Those thugs, they later discovered, were likely undercover police officers.

Like Chavez before him, Maduro often tries to deflect blame from his corrupt and wasteful policies by blaming the West for the nation’s troubles. Soon after protests and riots broke out over rampant inflation and food shortages, the government expelled three American diplomats, accusing them of working with the opposition to foment the unrest.

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