Venezuela: Gov’t Demands Compensation for Seized Airplane, Closes Airspace to Argentina

The estimated $80 million worth state-owned 747 Boeing aircraft was destroyed by US authorities last month.
Caracas spent almost two years trying to recover the cargo plane during Argentina’s former Alberto Fenández administration. (X / @PresidencialVen)

Caracas, March 13, 2024 ( – Venezuela has closed its airspace to flights to and from Argentina in response to the “criminal act” committed by the Javier Milei administration in handing a Venezuelan state-owned Boeing cargo plane to the US government.

On February 12, Argentinian authorities complied with a Washington confiscation order to transfer the Venezuelan aircraft to Florida after remaining grounded in Argentina for 18 months also on a US request. US officials claimed the plane’s use violated its sanctions policy against Iran and Venezuela as it had been purchased from an Iranian company. 

On February 28, images posted on social media showed the plane broken up into two large pieces at Florida’s Dade-Collier Transition and Training Airport (TNT). At the time, Caracas denounced the “act of vandalism” and warned it would take measures.

“Venezuela exercises full sovereignty over its airspace, and reiterates that no aircraft coming from or heading to Argentina will be allowed to fly over our territory,” informed Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister Yván Gil via social media on Tuesday.

Gil stated that the measure would stay in place until Venezuelan company Emtrasur, the owner of the seized aircraft, was “properly compensated for the damages incurred.” He warned that Buenos Aires has pretended to ignore the consequences of “acts of piracy and theft.”

The Venezuelan minister went on to condemn the Milei government, calling it “neo-Nazi” as well as “submissive and obedient to its imperial master” in reference to Washington. 

Venezuela’s National Assembly deputy Pedro Infante said the legislative body supported the decision to close the country’s airspace to Argentina, stating the Boeing plane was legally acquired and worth over US $80 million.

For his part, Venezuelan Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) General, Domingo Hernández Lárez, reiterated that “no unauthorized aircraft may cross the Venezuelan airspace without facing the consequences.”

In response, Argentine Presidential Spokesman Manuel Adorni stated that Buenos Aires would initiate “diplomatic actions” against the Maduro government.

“This is part of a retaliation taken by the Venezuelan government because the Argentine government accepted the confiscation order from the United States justice for Emtrasur’s Boeing 747,” said Adorni on Tuesday during a press conference.

According to reports, Venezuelan authorities had previously informed Buenos Aires of the measure to close its airspace to flights to and from Argentina. The Milei government protested against it on March 8 to no avail.

The Boeing 747 was owned by Emtrasur, a subsidiary of Venezuelan state airline Conviasa. It was purchased in January 2022 from Iran’s privately owned Mahan Air and it counted on technical assistance from Iranian nationals as part of the sales contract.

With a reported 90-tonne, 600 cubic-meter capacity, the plane was reportedly being used by Emtrasur for cargo shipments from countries like China and India to Venezuela, as well as deliver humanitarian aid to Caribbean countries. 

On June 6, 2022, the Venezuelan aircraft arrived in Buenos Aires with some 50 tonnes of auto parts from Mexico to be delivered to Argentinian factories. Two days later, the airplane was controversially denied permission to land and refuel in Montevideo, Uruguay, while in midair. It was forced to return to the Argentinian capital, where it was grounded by local authorities following a request from the US Justice Department. 

The crew, comprised of 14 Venezuelans and five Iranians, also had its passports seized.

In October 2022, the US State Department alleged that the sale of the aircraft to Venezuela by Mahan Air violated its sanctions on both countries and its export control laws, while likewise claiming that the plane had links to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force. The Iranian organization has been classified by Washington as “terrorist.” However, the claims were never proven.

Since 2022, several judicial investigations on the plane, its cargo and crew yielded no irregularities but the airplane remained grounded in Argentina while crew members were later released

On January 4 of this year, Argentinian Judge Federico Villena finally ordered the plane to be surrendered to US custody following the arrival of far-right President Javier Milei. Days later it was flown to US territory to be dismantled.

Iran, a longtime Venezuelan ally, has likewise condemned Washington’s “illegal seizure” of the cargo plane and said it was part of the US sanction-driven foreign policy against both nations.

Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.