AFP

Venezuela Portugal diplomacy aviation,lead February 17 2020 - 10:00 PM

Venezuela suspends Portuguese airline TAP for 90 days Caracas, Feb 17, 2020 (AFP) - Venezuela said Monday it has suspended Portuguese airline TAP for three months after accusing it of allowing a relative of opposition leader Juan Guaido to travel with explosives. Juan Marquez -- Guaido's uncle -- was arrested upon returning to Venezuela alongside the parliament speaker last week, accused of having explosives hidden in various objects in his luggage. Announcing the suspension of TAP for "serious irregularities," Transport Minister Hipolito Abreu said it could become a permanent ban. Marquez's lawyers have dismissed the case against him as a "vile set up." Guaido flouted a travel ban imposed by the regime of President Nicolas Maduro to spend three weeks visiting allies in Colombia, Europe and North America. The parliament speaker -- who a year ago proclaimed himself acting president in a direct challenge to Maduro that quickly garnered the support of more than 50 countries -- returned to Venezuela on February 11 aboard a TAP flight from Portugal. But while Guaido left the airport amidst a melee of jostling supporters and opponents, his uncle was detained. Maduro's government also accuses TAP of hiding Guaido's name from the official passenger list and using a false identity for him. Last Friday, Portugal said it was launching an investigation into the alleged "security failure on a flight from Lisbon" to Caracas. Venezuela's government is subject to harsh sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union, key Guaido allies. TAP is one of the few foreign airlines still operating flights to and from Venezuela. erc/mbj/mr/bc/dw

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