Caracas, November 18, 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) - US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) Chief John Kelly admitted yesterday that a US intelligence plane had violated Venezuelan airspace on November 6th as part of what he alleged to be an anti-drug operation.
Speaking to reporters at a forum organized by the Washington-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, the head of US military operations in South America and the Caribbean acknowledged that the Dash-8 aircraft flew twelve miles into Venezuelan airspace for a duration of 3.5 minutes.
“We admit it and offer our apologies,” Kelly stated, explaining that the aircraft had allegedly been pursuing a vessel reportedly believed to be transporting a ton of cocaine.
The general’s comments come in the midst of heightening tensions between Washington and Caracas after a recent Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) sting operation in Haiti saw the arrest of two men alleged to be nephews of Venezuela’s first lady on drug charges.
The Venezuelan government, for its part, has denied any links to the first lady and called the US operation a “kidnapping”, pointing a lack of evidence and the DEA’s failure to cooperate with Haitian authorities.
The US has long accused the Bolivarian government of abetting drug trafficking in its territory, though has failed to provide evidence to bolster its claims.
Last month, General Kelly described Venezuela as being on the brink of a “social implosion”, which he attributed in part to alleged impunity vis-a-vis drug trafficking.
Yesterday, the SOUTHCOM chief reiterated these concerns and called for Venezuela to resume its “anti-narcotics cooperation” with the United States.
In 2005, President Hugo Chávez terminated Venezuela’s cooperation agreement with the DEA, accusing the US anti-narcotics agency of espionage, allegations which have been verified by official documents leaked last year.