Venezuela Dissatisfied with U.S. Explanation for Airspace Violation

Venezuela’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nicolás Maduro, declared
on Tuesday that the Venezuelan government is not satisfied with the
explanation provided by U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy in reference to
the violation of Venezuelan airspace by a U.S. Navy plane.

By Kiraz Janicke - Venezuelanalysis.com

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Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro (Archive).
Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro (Archive).
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Caracas, May 21, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nicolás Maduro, declared on Tuesday that the Venezuelan government is not satisfied with the explanation provided by U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy in reference to the violation of Venezuelan airspace by a U.S. Navy plane.

The U.S. Viking S-3 warplane penetrated Venezuelan airspace around La Orchila island, which houses a Venezuelan military base and another island about 80 miles from the country’s mainland on Saturday.

Venezuela’s air traffic control contacted the aircraft after it entered Venezuela’s airspace. According to Pentagon authorities, the jet identified itself and told the Venezuelan authorities a possible navigation error had occurred.

After summoning Duddy to a meeting Tuesday that lasted for one hour and fifteen minutes, Maduro said, “We have had a meeting with him so he could explain the reason for the violation of Venezuelan airspace. We have had responses from the U.S. Ambassador, but they do not please us. However, he said that the actions would not be repeated.”

Maduro said the Venezuelan government was not satisfied because “they had no justification, Venezuelan airspace and maritime territory is sacred.”

In a separate press conference Duddy said, “I explained to the Foreign Minister, the details of the navigation error which caused the airplane that was carrying out an anti-drug mission, to stray, in an accidental manner, into Venezuelan airspace on May 17. I explained also that the due authorities are taking measures to ensure that this action is not repeated.”

Duddy said that he expressed to Maduro his “appreciation for the assistance of the air traffic controllers during the incident,” and proposed increased cooperation in anti-drug operations to “avoid these incidents in the future.” (In 2006 Venezuela kicked out U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) operatives alleging their involvement in espionage and drug trafficking.)

The U.S. diplomat then went on to attack the Venezuela over “the presumed links between the Venezuelan government and the FARC revealed by the computers seized from this guerrillas group.”

In response Maduro said, “We have expressed our opinion over the immense manipulation and errors of some spokespeople from the U.S. government in relation to the media show of the famous computer.”

The U.S. violation of Venezuelan airspace, together with the incursion by Colombian troops into the state of Apure last Friday “form part of a plan of provocations” Maduro continued.

The Bush Administration has a plan to destabilise Latin America “with a policy of introducing confrontation against the popular and transformational governments of the region” before the new administration comes in, Maduro contended in reference to the upcoming presidential elections in the US.

Although Venezuela is willing to use force to defend itself if necessary, it will not “fall into provocations” he assured.

In conclusion Maduro reiterated that Venezuela has no interest in renewing joint anti-drug operations with the U.S. because “Venezuela today is more effective and has had more major achievements in combating drugs than when the DEA was here.”

Speaking to students from the Latin American School of Medicine, in Fila de Mariches, near Caracas on Wednesday, President Hugo Chavez accused the U.S. of spying and assured that Venezuela would raise the issue in the upcoming extraordinary summit of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in Brasilia on Friday.

“Hardly three days ago, a United States warplane violated Venezuelan airspace…it passed through prohibited space, even for civilian aircraft,” Chavez pointed out, stressing the gravity of the flight over La Orchila.

The Venezuelan head of state dismissed the version according to which the aircraft was carrying out an anti-narcotics mission. The same argument which has been used to justify the reactivation of the U.S.’s Fourth Fleet in Latin America, inactive since World War II, he said.

“We are sure that they are carrying out espionage. It was a warplane. This is how they justify the Fourth Fleet, which – they say – is coming to fight against narco-trafficking and terrorism. This is a lie! It is a war fleet and is a threat, not only against Venezuela, but against all of us [the countries in the region],” the president added.