Sunday, June 16, 2024

Venezuelan military destroys small plane from Mexico

The Venezuelan military has destroyed a small plane that illegally entered the country’s airspace, which it claims departed from the Mexican island of Cozumel and was believed to be used for drug trafficking.

Domingo Hernández Lárez, head of the strategic operational command of the Venezuelan armed forces (CEOFANB), shared images of the wrecked aircraft via his X social media account. It is a white twin-engine Gulfstream 2 jet aircraft with a blue stripe.

Zulia Military Command shared images of the destroyed aircraft. (CEOFANB/X)

“Venezuela will not be used as a platform for drug trafficking!” he said. “The Territorial Defensive System is here, and will react immediately to any invasion attempt.”

Further images were shared on Instagram by the Zulia military command, which said that the aircraft had departed from Cozumel and had been destroyed on the ground.

Few details were given about the operation to intercept the plane, or any detentions or casualties. Photos show the burning wreckage of the plane on a dirt airstrip, with its landing gear down, confirming that it landed before being destroyed.

In a separate post, the CEOFANB shared photos appearing to show Venezuelan military aircraft intercepting the plane. They said that the plane had the registration number V3-GRS and had entered Venezuelan territory with its transponders switched off.

 

“It is presumed that this plane was used by transnational groups for the illicit trafficking of drugs and arms,” they said. “Venezuela is a territory of peace, where the scourge of drug trafficking, terrorism and organized crime is combated daily.”

Bordering the Colombian region of Catatumbo, a major cocaine-producing area, the forested mountains of Venezuela’s Zulia state have long been a hub for clandestine airstrips used for drug smuggling. Mexican criminal groups such as the Sinaloa Cartel have been present in Zulia for several years, according to investigative journalism outlet InSight Crime.

Several other drug planes traveling between Venezuela and Mexico have been detected in the past – including an aircraft that departed from Venezuela before crash-landing on a highway in Quintana Roo in 2020, and a plane stolen in Morelos that was flown to Venezuela to pick up a drug load before crash-landing in Guatemala, also in 2020.

The Venezuelan military has taken increasing public action against these criminal operations over recent years. At least 38 aircraft allegedly used for drug trafficking or illegal mining were destroyed in the country during 2023. Defensive actions have stepped up further in recent weeks, in the context of rising political tensions ahead of Venezuela’s presidential elections in 2024.

With reports from El País

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