While most airlines have suspended service to troubled Venezuela, a handful have continued, including TAP Air Portugal. But the Star Alliance member now finds itself condemned by Venezuelan authorities and suspended for 90 days.
Venezuela Punishes TAP Air Portugal For Transporting Opposition Leader
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó recently concluded a multi-stop tour which included the White House and several European capitals. Traveling with his uncle, Guaidó has sought to raise support and awareness over his movement in Venezuela. Already the United States and European Union recognize him as the legitimate leader of Venezuela, a move that has made Nicolas Maduro and his regime irate.
Guaidó flew TAP Air Portugal for his journey home to Caracas. Upon landing, his uncle was arrested for “attempting to bring a small amount of explosives” into Venezuela. This is widely thought to be a sham charge.
Vice President Delcy Rodríguez said TAP’s rights to serve Venezuela would be suspended for 90 days over this breach of public trust (allowing the “explosives” onboard).
“Venezuela must be respected.”
TAP denies any wrongdoing, arguing that it complied with all Venezuelan and Portuguese safety and legal requirements for the flight. It added:
“This is a serious measure which harms our passengers, without the company even having been given a chance to counter the accusation.”
Now the Portuguese government may intervene as it looks into the matter. Already Portuguese Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said, “I can’t see any kind of justification” and views the move as a “hostile act” against Portugal.
The Maduro regime doesn’t make much sense to me. Why would it alienate one of the last international airlines serving Caracas? TAP’s flight represent a vital lifeline for the Venezuelan people to the outside world. TAP should think seriously about suspending all service to Venezuela if the government is going to act so petulantly.
Since 2017, TAP has used a leased euroAtlatnic 767 on the Caracas route.