Venezuela claims U.S. military plane violated airspace

A USCG HC-130 Hercules near Oahu, Hawaii.

The Venezuelan Defense Ministry on Sunday claimed that a U.S. DASH-8 military aircraft violated its maritime airspace and the armed forces of Caracas said they detected “unusual” air activity by other U.S. “intelligence equipment” based in Curacao.

The U.S. Coast Guard DASH-8, “equipped with an electro-optic system that allows the detection of thermal energy to create images, violated our airspace over the territorial waters created by Los Monjes,” a Caribbean archipelago, said Defense Minister Gen. Vladimiro Padrino.

The Venezuelan army general said that the violation occurred last Friday and that the complaint “was transmitted to the Foreign Ministry for the appropriate action.”

The U.S. plane “flew in a reconnaissance pattern and orbited the southern portion of Los Monjes, in the Gulf of Venezuela, and flew circular search patterns,” said Padrino in a televised speech from the Venezuelan presidential palace.

In addition, he said that “intelligence aircraft of the United States … based in Curacao approached our area of influence in an unusual manner,” specifying that these planes were RC-135 aircraft used to take photos and gather intelligence data, reiterating that their activity “is completely unusual.”

The RC-135’s were accompanied by a larger aircraft, a “C-17 Globemaster,” which is a heavy military transport plane used for ferrying troops, paratroops and supplies, he said.

This unusual military activity, Padrino said, attracted the attention of the Venezuelan armed forces and comes in the run-up to the Dec. 6 legislative elections, adding that the U.S. aircraft carrier George Washington “coincidentally will be very close to us on the day of the elections,” although he said he did not want to be alarmist about the situation.

The George Washington, with its fleet of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters travels accompanied by “missile frigates, submarines and a whole platform of logistics vessels,” Padrino said.

The United States and Venezuela have not had ambassadors in each other’s capitals since 2010, but the two countries have had a testy diplomatic relationship since the late former President Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999, and that tension has continued under his successor, Nicolas Maduro. EFE

(c) 2015 EFE News Services (U.S.) Inc.

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