Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Links Downed Mexican Plane To Drug Trafficking

The downed Hawker.
Venezuelan Commander Vladimir Padrino Lopez posted this photo on his Twitter page on Tuesday. Twitter/ Vladimir Padrino


In a speech transmitted live on television on Thursday, Nicolás Maduro, the president of Venezuela, linked the recent downing of a plane with a Mexican license plate to his government's anti-drug trafficking efforts.  Maduro said that authorities had brought down 30 planes involved in the drug trade since May 2012, when a new airspace-defense law went into effect which permits "the application of interception, persuasion and disablement" of planes or objects which infringe on Venezuelan airspace law. "Recently, plane number 30 was downed over national waters, the third linked to drug trafficking to be brought down that way," he said.  "We're going to fight it with everything we've got.  Let those who know, know, and those who don't know, figure it out."

He stopped short, however, of saying the plane, a Hawker 25 with the Mexican license plate number XB-MGM, was piloted by drug traffickers, or that it had been carrying drugs at the time it was downed.  Maduro's comments came one day after Vladimir Padrino, a commander in the Venezuelan army, told the news channel Telesur that the plane had been downed and destroyed on Monday night in the Venezuelan state of Apure, near the Colombian border.  Padrino also posted photos of the destroyed plane on his Twitter page earlier in the week.  Mexican authorities said they have traced the license plate to a man from the state of Colima who is currently incarcerated on domestic violence charges.

At the request of Mexico's foreign ministry, which had inquired into the details of the incident, Venezuelan diplomats said that the plane had been "disabled" while in the air and later burned.  "The government of Venezuela has commented to us in an official fashion that they asked the airplane to land, directed it to a place, and upon reaching it, they proceeded to burn the plane," Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong told El Universal. He added that Venezuelan officials said that the crew members had "abandoned the airplane before its disablement" but did not offer details as to whether documents had been recovered which might have revealed the identity of the occupants.

Chang also said that further details were being requested of Venezuelan authorities so as to ascertain the reasons for which it had been downed.  "It has been asked [of the Venezuelan government] to tell us the facts as they transpired as well as whether there were any persons or involvements of Mexican nationality.  There are many facts left that are being asked in a diplomatic way."

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David Iaconangelo is a Brooklyn-based writer and translator.  Formerly editor of ZafraLit, a blog of new short fiction from Cuba.  He has lived in and reported from various Latin American countries.