“The Armed Forces said that at 9:52 a.m. [13:52 GMT], on July 19, 2019, the air force’s command detected a plane that was heading from the northwestern part of the Caribbean Sea for Maiquetia [near Caracas] … There was an order to send interceptors in order to identify the aircraft”, the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
The Defence Ministry stressed that the Venezuelan air force had failed to establish contact with the US aircraft.
“At 11:33 a.m. the visual contact showed that it was a US [Lockheed] EP-3E plane. The attempts to establish a contact with it were not successful … The plane changed the flight route, it had been shadowed until the moment it had left the region at 11:43 a.m.", the statement added.
The ministry stressed that was not the first such incident, adding that illegal flights in Venezuelan airspace were treated by Caracas as a significant external threat.
Venezuela has been suffering from a severe political and economic crisis, particularly since late January when US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido proclaimed himself interim president in a bid to oust constitutionally-elected Nicolas Maduro from power.
Maduro slammed Guaido, saying he acts at the orders of the United States, which sought to install him as the country’s president and gain control of Venezuela’s vast oil assets. In May, Venezuelan authorities thwarted a coup attempt involving the military.
Russia has repeatedly said the United States is strangling the country with sanctions in an attempt to drag it into chaos.