Venezuela’s military has shot down a US-registered aircraft carrying drugs, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol has announced.
According to the minister, the incident took place Tuesday, with the aircraft downed after illegally entering Venezuelan airspace in the province of Zulia near the border with Colombia.
Los funcionarios de la #Fanb tras detectar la unidad aérea ilegal con los radares del Comando de Defensa Aeroespacial Integral (#Codai), activaron todos los protocolos establecidos en la Ley de Control para la Defensa Integral del Espacio Aéreo pic.twitter.com/LSB8xraFCx— Néstor Reverol (@NestorLReverol) September 15, 2020
“After the illegal air unit was detected by the radars of the Comprehensive Aerospace Defence Command, the National Bolivarian Armed Forces activated all protocols established in the Control Law for the Comprehensive Defence of Airspace,” Reverol tweeted, referring to a 2013 law authorising the destruction of any suspected cartel plane operating in Venezuelan airspace.
“We remain on permanent alert, monitoring our airspace to prevent it from being used for illicit drug trafficking from Colombia, which is the largest producer of cocaine in the world,” Reverol added, in a possible reference to the plane’s cargo.
Nos mantenemos en alerta permanente, vigilando nuestro espacio aéreo para evitar que sea utilizado para el tráfico ilícito de drogas desde Colombia como mayor productor de cocaína del mundo. #LaVerdadDeVenezuela pic.twitter.com/oyHkMZf1c9— Néstor Reverol (@NestorLReverol) September 15, 2020
Tuesday’s incident was the second since July 8, when another plane with a US registration number was destroyed by fighter jets while intruding into Venezuelan airspace. A month before that, another drug-laden private aircraft was destroyed by the military.
Venezuela’s military is equipped with some of the latest Russian military equipment, including the S-300 air defence system, which features long-range radar, as well as Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets, which complement the US and European equipment the country bought before Washington put embargoes on military-related equipment to Caracas in the 2000s.
Despite Caracas’s efforts to combat narcotics smuggling, Washington has accused Venezuela of not doing enough to deal with the problem, and has even claimed that high-ranking Venezuelan officials are engaged in the operation of a ‘narco-terrorist’ cartel operation themselves. Venezuelan officials have blasted their US counterparts over the claims, with President Nicolas Maduro describing the allegations as the fantasy of “racist cowboy” US President Donald Trump.