Caracas, May 22 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuelan Defence Minister, Padrino Lopez, has denied international press reports that the cocaine filled plane which crashed off the coast of Colombia on Wednesday was originally bound from Venezuela.
At a press conference on Wednesday evening, Lopez stated that the small Hawker HS 800 aircraft had originally taken off from Central America and passed through Venezuela- where it loaded up on its illicit cargo- before being intercepted by the country’s National Anti-Drug Office (ONA).
The version of events appears to be supported by the discovery of a Mexican passport, seemingly belonging to the plane’s pilot, amongst the wreckage of the aircraft.
Padrino confirmed that the plane had originally entered Venezuelan airspace at 00:03 local time. The incursion was initially treated as an aircraft in distress requiring aerial assistance or rescue.
“The National Anti-Drug Office (ONA) informed us that an airplane on route from Central America would enter Venezuelan airspace… Once the aircraft landed in the South of Elorza, it loads the drugs and is immediately intercepted,” explained Lopez.
The pilot allegedly refused to identify the aircraft to Venezuelan authorities and proceeded to take to flight, eventually causing the Ceofanb (Armed Forces Strategic Operational Command) to open fire on the plane, impacting one of its turbines.
“From this moment, the aircraft starts to descend rapidly,” related Lopez, who added that Venezuelan authorities proceeded to notify the Colombian Airforce of the plane’s trajectory at 2:30 Venezuelan time.
According to Lopez, the ammunition fired at the plane was the principal cause of its eventual crash. The wreckage was subsequently found off the north coast of Colombia after having illegally entered the country’s airspace and attempting to make a landing in Santa Marta airport, states an official communication from the Colombian Airforce.
Lopez went on criticise a widely circulated Reuters report covering the crash as “partial and manipulative”.
“It does not clarify, it does not specify. It says that the plane left loaded with Venezuelan cocaine, but it doesn’t say that it was the target of military action carried out in perfect defence of the sovereignty of our airspace,” Lopez explained.
The Minister also confirmed that 90 planes carrying 180 tonnes of cocaine had been intercepted by Venezuelan anti-drug forces between 2012-2015 and that 486 illicit runways used for the purpose of drug trafficking had been discovered and dismantled.