U.S. clears Maduro’s flight at last minute

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro (left) and Bolivia’s President Evo Morales in this July 2013 photo.   | Photo Credit: Juan Karita

To avoid another major diplomatic crisis with a South American country, the U.S. has approved a flight plan for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to fly over Puerto Rico on his way to China at the last-minute.

Washington told Caracas on Thursday night that permission was granted though the request had not been properly submitted, said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

Earlier on Thursday, Venezuela had accused the U.S. government of denying permission for Mr. Maduro’s jet to fly through its airspace. Foreign Minister Elias Jaua had said the flight plan had been rejected by the U.S. “We denounce it as yet more U.S. aggression,” Mr. Jaua had said, adding the government was studying other routes to China, which is the biggest lender to Venezuela and a major buyer of its oil.

It’s not immediately known if Mr. Maduro would fly through the U.S airspace or not.

Mr. Maduro, who has had a rocky relationship with the U.S. since winning an election in April triggered by the death of President Hugo Chavez, also launched an attack on the U.S government on Thursday. “What’s going on in the United States? Why are they so nervous? Why so much despair?” Mr. Maduro asked on state TV during a meeting with his party’s candidates for local elections.

Coming just two days after Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called off her state visit to the U.S. over spying by the National Security Agency (NSA), the latest spat — which looks resolved at the moment — would have intensified the war of words between South American nations and the U.S. Washington’s relations with South America have been on a downward spiral since July when several European Union countries closed their airspace to Bolivian President Evo Morales’ jet and forced him to land in Austria because of suspicions that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was on board. In response to the incident, Latin American leaders joined together in condemnation of what they described as neo-colonial intimidation.

The latest incident has brought South America’s leftist governments even closer. At a news conference in Bolivia on Thursday, Mr. Morales expressed solidarity with his Venezuelan counterpart.

“We cannot accept that the U.S. carries on with politics of intimidation and the prohibition of flights by Presidents,” Mr. Morales said, adding that the denial “demonstrates the country’s predisposition to humiliate other governments” and commit crimes against other nations.

According to reports in the Bolivian media, Mr. Morales will also file a lawsuit against the U.S. government for crimes against humanity. “I would like to announce that we are preparing a lawsuit against Barack Obama to condemn him for crimes against humanity,” said Mr. Morales at a press conference in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz. He branded the U.S. President as a “criminal” who violates international law.

He also suggested the leaders of the leftist Latin American and Caribbean ALBA bloc — once led by Chavez — should not attend the General Assembly meetings.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2022 3:56:24 AM |

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