U.S. officials said Sunday that a Venezuelan fighter jet “aggressively shadowed” an American intelligence plane that was operating in international airspace over the Caribbean, and they released a video of the incident to prove it.
According to U.S. Southern Command, Venezuela’s action demonstrated reckless behavior by President Nicolás Maduro, whose socialist government is desperately attempting to hang on to power amid an economic collapse that has left much of the nation’s population in despair.
The South American regime, which recently accused the United States of staging a coup in their country, said the U.S. aircraft was operating in Venezuelan airspace.
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“The Armed Forces of Venezuela firmly reject this type of provocation on the part of the United States of America,” Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lópezz said in a statement. “We will continually be alert to watching over the tranquility of the Venezuelan people.”
However, U.S. officials insisted that the Navy’s EP-3 Aries II was flying a multinationally approved mission when it was approached by the Venezuela’s Russian-made SU-30 fighter at an “unsafe distance. The Venezuelan jet then closely trailed the U.S. plane in an “unprofessional manner,” putting the crew at risk, officials said.
“The U.S. routinely conducts multi-nationally recognized and approved detection and monitoring missions in the region to ensure the safety and security of our citizens and those of our partners. The EP-3 aircraft was adhering to international standards and rules,” Southern Command said in a statement. ”
“Despite the Venezuelan people’s suffering, his nation’s vital infrastructure crumbling, and children starving, Maduro chooses to use his country’s precious resources to engage in unprovoked and unjustified acts.”
After Venezuelan plane shadows Navy aircraft, U.S. sends stern warning
Sen. Marco Rubio, a frequent critic of Venezuela’s socialist government, issued a strong warning in response to the video of the mid-air confrontation.
“Venezuela only has 3 fighter jets that can fly,” the Florida Republican said on Twitter. “If they ever harmed any U.S. aircraft they would soon have zero.”
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President Donald Trump and 50 other nations have backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s attempt to oust Maduro, whose socialist government they say is responsible for the unprecedented crisis currently plaguing the country. Despite the international condemnation, Maduro has clung to power throughout the crisis, in part thanks to support from Russia and China.
But not everyone in the U.S. has been as critical of Venezuela’s socialist regime. Some on the American left have argued that the country isn’t authentically socialist, and that regardless its economic crisis is the fault of the United States.