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Caracas Accuses US of 'Flagrant Provocation' After USAF Plane Illegally Flies Over Venezuela

© Flickr / Alejandro PenaC-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
C-17 Globemaster III at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska - Sputnik International, 1920, 23.07.2021
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According to the Venezuelan Defense Ministry, a US military aircraft entered Venezuelan airspace on Friday, drawing condemnation from Caracas for the violation of the country's sovereignty.
According to a statement by the Defense Ministry, a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III heavy transport aircraft crossed the Venezuelan-Colombian border on Thursday evening and for three minutes flew over the western Venezuelan state of Zulia, covering about 14 miles of territory.
The statement notes that the aircraft committed the violation while engaged in a larger set of drills that involved American F-16 and RC-135 aircraft. The latter was confirmed by independent aircraft tracking sources to have been an RC-135V/W Rivet Joint signals intelligence aircraft, which flew several laps over Colombia's northeastern La Guajira, Cesar, and Magdalena states on Thursday evening.
The ministry noted this is the 21st time this year that US aircraft have violated the Maiquetía Flight Information Region, another name for the airspace governed by Venezuelan air traffic controllers. It called this "a serious violation of international aeronautical standards."
​"We reiterate before the international community and multilateral organizations that the presence of North American bases in Colombian territory represent a permanent threat and constitute an atrocious interference mechanism that significantly affects the stability of the Caribbean and Latin American region where, thanks to the integrationist effort of the Supreme Commander Hugo Chávez, has been working on its consolidation as a Zone of Peace," the ministry added.
A screenshot from an online flight tracker shows the C-17, callsign RCH233, cutting across Sierra de Perijá National Park in Venezuela.
Notably, the RC-135V, callsign COOT43 in the image, is immediately to the west of the park as the C-17 enters Venezuelan airspace. As a signals tracking aircraft, it was likely looking at how the Venezuelan military reacted to the incursion.
"I categorically reject the violation of our sovereign airspace by a US military aircraft," Venezuelan Defense Minister Gen. Vladimir Padrino said on Twitter on Friday. "This occurs when [Colombian President] Ivan Duque slavishly hands over the sovereignty of the Colombian people to foreign military bases. It is a serious threat to the entire region."
US military cooperation with Colombia has come under scrutiny recently after the Pentagon confirmed that seven of the Colombian ex-military men arrested in Haiti in connection with the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise earlier this month had received special training from the US as part of their service, including from the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC) at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Whether the Thursday incident was an accident or not, the US also purposefully violates Venezuela's claimed waters in what it calls "Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPS), a political stunt in which a US warship ignores a nation's claims if the US considers them "excessive," effectively challenging the country to defend its sovereignty. Once such incident in July 2020 was denounced by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza as "an inexcusable act of provocation” and “erratic and childish.”
It's not as if the aircraft was too lumbering to change its course, either, as a Royal Australian Air Force C-17 demonstrated in 2019 as it dodged skyscrapers in Brisbane to celebrate the end of the Riverfire arts and culture show.
​The Pentagon has not yet commented on the incident.
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