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Venezuela to Nationalize Drug Trafficking-Linked Airline Aeropostal

Mérida, March 27th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) -- The Venezuelan government will nationalize the operations of the airline Aeropostal in Venezuela, which is implicated in drug trafficking cases pending against its owners, President Hugo Chávez announced during a summit with governors, mayors, and legislators of his own United Socialist Party of Venezuela, on Wednesday.

Last November, authorities arrested several owners of Aeropostal, brothers Abdala, Alex, and Basel Makled of the Makled business group, and several employees on the Makled estate last November for possession of 400 kilograms of cocaine and other drug trafficking charges.

The arrests had been solicited by the International Police Organization (INTERPOL), according to Venezuelan Interior and Justice Minister Tarek El-Aissami.

In February, Venezuelan authorities arrested a group of hired assassins who worked for the Makled group and are suspected to have committed the executions of eighteen people.

Since the Makled brothers’ arrests, a government auditing team has controlled the administration of Aeropostal, in accordance with the Law on Illicit Trafficking and Consumption of Drugs.

“This is a measure against drug trafficking,” said President Hugo Chávez Wednesday. “We are going to re-launch Aeropostal as a socially owned airline,” he said, referring to a new type of “social property” that his administration recognizes and promotes in addition to guaranteeing private property.

The president said a new national plan will be drawn up to develop Venezuela’s aeronautics industry with a focus on national development priorities and not only profit.

Aeropostal operates three commercial airplanes in Venezuelan territory. The Venezuelan government has guaranteed legal protections for Aeropostal employees who were not involved in illegal activities.

The Chávez government has also recently taken control of many key ports and airports across the country that have allegedly fallen into the hands of drug traffickers and contraband mafias since the administration of the transportation hubs was decentralized two decades ago.  

Published on Mar 29th 2009 at 9.06pm