Sat, Sep 21, 2013 - Page 7 News List

US banned overflight: Venezuela

AP, CARACAS

Venezuela complained on Thursday that Washington had barred Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from flying through US airspace and prohibited a general from later accompanying him to the UN.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said prohibiting the flight scheduled to pass over Puerto Rico on Thursday as Maduro headed to China amounted to an “aggression.”

Maduro later complained about the airspace issue and said the US had refused to grant a visa to General Wilmer Barrientos, his chief of staff.

He said he was going to China in a Cuban plane to “strengthen relations with the great power of the 21st century.”

He did not say whether the US had explained either action.

US embassy officials in Caracas did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

Jaua said Venezuela reserved “the right to take whatever measures we have to if the government of the US, and its aviation authorities, don’t rectify this latest abuse.”

Allied Bolivian President Evo Morales, whose plane was forced down in Austria in July after leaving Moscow, presumably because US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was suspected to have been aboard, also reacted angrily.

He said without offering further details that the US should prepare to face “international legal action for crimes against humanity.”

Venezuela and Bolivia have had strained relations with the US in recent years.

Washington has been without an ambassador in Venezuela since 2010 and Morales kicked out the US ambassador and the US Drug Enforcement Administration in 2008, accusing them of inciting the opposition.

Maduro has repeatedly accused the US of conspiring to overthrow his government, although without substantiating the claims.

He narrowly won the presidency in April in elections the opposition claims were stolen through fraud and he presides over a government that human rights and press freedom groups say is among the most repressive in the Western Hemisphere.

Maduro’s Venezuela is a staunch supporter of Syria and an ally as well of Russia and Iran. China has in recent years become a close commercial associate.

The US also considers Venezuela a major drug-transiting country, where cocaine originating in Colombia heads north toward the US and east to Africa and Europe.

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