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Venezuelan delegation protests seizure of plane in Argentina on US diktat

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Workers of the Venezuelan airline CONVIASA protest in front of the Argentine embassy in Caracas demanding the return of an EMTRASUR cargo plane and its crew, in Caracas, on August 11, 2022. (AFP Photo)

A Venezuelan government delegation on Thursday held a protest outside Argentina's embassy in Caracas against the grounding of a cargo plane and its crew in Buenos Aires on the US diktat.

“Give back the plane and the crew”, the protesters, including Venezuela's transport minister, shouted in front of the embassy, dressed in T-shirts and caps of the South American country's public airline.

The Boeing 747 cargo plane, owned by Venezuelan cargo airline Emtrasur, a subsidiary of Consorcio Venezolano de Industrias Aeronáuticas y Servicios Aéreos (Conviasa), was held at Argentina's Ezeiza airport on June 8 after Uruguay denied it authorization to enter its airspace.

Venezuela's transport minister Ramon Velasquez along with lawmakers visited the embassy to lodge their protest against the arbitrary move, as workers of Conviasa shouted slogans outside.

The delegation handed over a letter of protest to Ambassador Oscar Laborde, demanding the immediate release of the seized plane and its crew.

"We gave the ambassador some communications so that the authorities, the counterparts in Argentina, can sit down and talk about the situation, find the best alternative and the best solution to this problem," Velasquez was quoted as saying.

"We hope that the truth prevails, that the Argentine justice system reacts, that it does not take this situation plagued by illegality to new levels.”

The seized plane first entered Argentina on June 6 carrying auto parts from Mexico. As it was unable to refuel in Buenos Aires due to US sanctions, the plane left for Montevideo two days later.

But the Uruguayan authorities refused to give it access to its airspace, forcing it to fly back to Argentina.

An Argentinian judge Federico Villena passed a judgment to detain the aircraft to investigate the crew of 14 Venezuelans and five Iranians.

The judgment was passed on the instructions of the US, claiming that the laws were broken when the aircraft was sold by Iran’s Mahan airlines to Emtrasur, which is controlled by Conviasa.

Earlier this month, Argentina’s federal judge Federico Villenajudge, who is in charge of investigating the case, issued an order authorizing the departure of 12 of the 19 crew members.

However, four Iranians and three Venezuelans were asked to remain in Argentina until the probe ends.

The ruling came a week after Iran summoned the top representative of Argentina’s diplomatic mission in Tehran to complain about the detention of the Iranian crew on board the plane.

Iran's foreign ministry has maintained that the presence of Iranian trainers on the plane was in line with international aviation regulations and there are no legal grounds for their detention.

In his remarks on August 4, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro slammed the US diktat to have the cargo plane seized, saying Washington wants to “steal” the aircraft.

“They intend to steal from us a plane owned by Venezuela, legally owned by Venezuela... after kidnapping it for two months. Venezuela voices its protest and asks the Argentine people for all their support to recover that plane,” Maduro told state television.

Following the protest on Thursday, Velasquez said the detained crew members were being investigated for "espionage and terrorism" and their "right to defense" was being violated.

"They have not yet been called to testify, their right to a defense is being violated," he asserted. “You can’t tell people they are terrorists, they are spies using intelligence reports that you know are biased” he asserted, referring to the intelligence agencies of Paraguay.

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