Facebook bans virus-hit nation’s president over controversial Covid claim

Tom Flanagan
·News Reporter
·2-min read

Facebook has temporarily banned the account of Venezuela's president as the nation battles a surging second wave of coronavirus infections.

Nicolas Maduro’s page was suspended for 30 days for violating its policies against spreading misinformation about Covid-19, Facebook confirmed.

The move comes after Maduro promoted Carvativir, a Venezuelan-made herbal remedy he claimed could cure the virus.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gestures while speaking during a press conference at the Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas on February 17, 2021.
Venezuela's president Nicolas Maduro has been banned from Facebook for a month. Source: AP

Facebook's decision was a result of following guidance from the World Health Organisation (WHO) that there was currently no medication that can cure the virus, the tech giant said.

Venezuela's daily infections are on the rise thanks to the emergence of the highly-infectious Brazilian strain in the community. Over the weekend, daily deaths reached its highest point since the pandemic began.

While the nation has recorded a moderate 155,000 cases and 1,555 deaths, their official data is significantly lower than neighbouring countries of South America – a continent that has been badly hit by the virus.

The country's political opposition refutes its statistics, saying the true number of cases is likely far higher due to a lack of testing.

Carvativir bottles sit on a table at a health clinic belonging to the Barrio Adentro government health program in the El Paraiso neighbourhood of Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, March 25, 2021.
Bottles of Carvativir sit on a table at a Venezuela health clinic last week. Source: AP

Venezuelan government hits out at Facebook ban

The Venezuelan government hit back on Sunday, accusing Facebook of “digital totalitarianism”.

In a statement on Sunday, Venezuela’s information ministry said Facebook was going after “content geared toward combating the pandemic” and described Carvativir as a retroviral of “national production and engineering".

“We are witnessing a digital totalitarianism exercised by supranational companies who want to impose their law on the countries of the world,” the ministry said.

Facebook declined to comment.

Venezuelan doctors have warned that Carvativir’s effect on coronavirus has not been established. The treatment is derived from thyme, a herb that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine.

Maduro, who has overseen an economic collapse since taking office in 2013 and is labeled a dictator by Washington and many other Western nations, said in a tweet on Sunday he would broadcast his daily coronavirus briefing on the Facebook account of his wife, First Lady Cilia Flores.

On Sunday, Maduro said Venezuela was looking to purchase vaccines with oil.

With Reuters

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