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Cablegate: Venezuela Detains Copa Airlines Plane

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OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHZP #0710 2652241
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 222241Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY PANAMA
TO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS IMMEDIATE 1185
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3764
INFO RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL IMMEDIATE

C O N F I D E N T I A L PANAMA 000710

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/21/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL EAIR PM VE
SUBJECT: VENEZUELA DETAINS COPA AIRLINES PLANE

Classified By: DCM David Gilmour, Reasons 1.4 (b) & (d)

1. (C) Vice President and Foreign Minister Juan Carlos Varela
told Ambassador September 21 that Venezuela had recently
detained a COPA Airlines 737 in Maracaibo for two days,
evidently in retaliation for the GOP having permitted
anti-Chavez protests in Panama earlier this month.

2. (C) Varela said the Venezuelans had detained the aircraft
ostensibly because its flight safety paperwork was not in
order (NOTE: COPA operates all late model B737s, and their
fleet is one of the youngest in the hemisphere). Varela said
he spent an entire weekend making phone calls and negotiating
with the Venezuelans to get the place released.

3. (C) President Ricardo Martinelli has made it clear that
his government is strongly opposed to Chavez' policies, and
Martinelli is proud to cast himself as a bulwark against
extreme leftwing governments in the region. Martinelli and
Varela have both been sympathetic to the de facto Micheletti
government in Honduras. Concerning this particular incident
with the COPA plane, Varela said "He (Chavez) was testing us."

STEPHENSON
STEPHENSON

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