The grounding of a Boeing 747-300 of the Venezuelan cargo company Emtrasur and the court case initiated against its crew members by Argentinian authorities is a component of Venezuela’s political persecution by the United States, since there are no legal or technical reasons for such measures.
This was one of the conclusions reached during an interview that Telesur journalist Madelein García and Venezuelan political analyst Miguel Ángel Pérez Pirela held with the president of Emtrasur, Major César Pérez, and with one of the crew members in Argentina, Emtrasur’s Finance Manager Mario Arraga.
In the course of the conversation, it became clear that the entities in charge of civil aviation in Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay endangered air safety and the lives of the crew by denying access to fuel and airspace. In addition, they impeded the operations of a cargo company that was attempting to honor its commercial agreements.
Below is the transcript of the interview broadcast on the program Desde Donde Sea on La IguanaTV.
Miguel Ángel Pérez Pirela (MAPP): We are looking at an issue surrounded with speculation, that of the Emtrasur plane seized in Buenos Aires.
Madelein García (MG): And a lot of wrong and manipulated information began on June 6, when the plane landed in Buenos Aires with cargo from Mexico, after refueling in Venezuela. Emtrasur is a subsidiary of Conviasa, which is sanctioned by the United States as an alleged “terrorist company.” Nineteen crew members were on board: fourteen Venezuelans and five Iranians who served as instructors. It was the fifth operation the jumbo jet had performed. It transported merchandise. Is that so, Major Pérez?
César Pérez (CP): All commercial aviation operations are previously planned. There is no improvisation. In this case, to carry out this operation we had all the permits granted and the entire route planned and the fuel was prepaid in Argentina.
MG: I understand that the plane was diverted for weather reasons. It landed at an alternate airport, the crew got off, went to rest, and the next day, when they got back on the plane, they were then told that they couldn’t refuel. Who notified them about it?
CP: It is important to highlight that when they arrived in Córdoba, which is the alternate airport for Ezeiza (the terminal that serves Buenos Aires), the crew didn’t even pass migration. They stayed on the aircraft waiting for authorization to go to Ezeiza, which was the place where the cargo was delivered. This delivery was made according to the internal regulations of Argentina. It was unloaded without problems and the crew wanted to go to the hotel for their crew rest, a term used in commercial aviation. They entered Argentina without problems, they spent the night in Ezeiza, they did not even go to Buenos Aires. When they returned to the plane, they were surprised to find their refueling was denied.
MG: It is fitting to note that the supplier was the Shell company. When they refused to supply fuel, the crew decided to go to Uruguay, which was the closest alternative. When they were arriving at Montevideo (Uruguay), they were denied landing, putting the crew in danger because they were left flying for an hour. What did they claim in Uruguay?
CP: When they denied us fuel, there were 28,000 liters left in the tanks. Where the loading operation could be carried out reliably was analyzed, because operational safety comes first. If we had not had to go to the alternate [location] before, we would have been able to fly to Viru Viru, in Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia), where Conviasa flies regularly. But, given that there was not enough left for that flight, coordination was made to go to Uruguay and, even the refueling was prearranged.
MG: It should be noted that ANAC, the Argentine air authority, certified that everything was in order. There was no reason for any action. What was happening is that the maneuver of political persecution by the United States against Venezuela and Iran was unfolding. Then they launched the narrative that there were allegedly terrorists traveling on the plane. What did you hear, Mario, who was there?
Mario Árraga (MA, in Argentina): It was the Uruguayan aeronautical authority that notified us that we did not have permission to enter their airspace, on instructions from the Ministry of Defense. We proceeded to return once again to an alternate airport. There we understood that an issue outside of logistical and operational protocols was at issue.
MAPP: It is very important that you tell us about your experience. How did you experience that situation?
MA: When we returned to Ezeiza we already saw that there was something strange happening, because they sent us to wait in a taxiway, which is an area between the runway and where the planes stop. Forty-five minutes passed before they told us that we could move to position 54-A, which is where we were parked previously. But as we advanced, we did so with a security ring from the Argentinian Aeronautical Police, who accompanied us to the position. Once there, the ring was reinforced and we were in the aircraft for five and a half hours. They asked us what our intention was, and we explained what happened. We were almost incommunicado. We only spoke with a representative of the Aeronautical Police, who said that he should wait for instructions, and then said that he had made arrangements with Shell and two other companies that supply fuel here in Argentina, and all of them refused to refuel the jet.
MG: Is it true that special teams arrived with explosives and dogs?
MA: That happened later, in a raid on the plane. After five and a half hours, they allowed us to get off and go back to immigration, but surrounded by police, as if we had entered illegally.
RELATED CONTENT: President Maduro Visits Iran & Washington Tightens Aggression—Venezuelan Boeing 747 Detained in Argentina
MG: Here, Orlenys Ortiz, a Venezuelan journalist who has followed up on the issue, tells us that the access permit to Uruguay was revoked when the plane was in flight. Another source told us that the Uruguayan aeronautical authority apologized to the INAC of Venezuela, alleging that “I cannot do anything because they are orders from the Ministry of Defense.” It is also known that they tried to ask for permission in Paraguay, and they were not given it either, which is strange because the company has already made flights between Asunción and Aruba.
MA: What Paraguay denied was permission to fly over its airspace to follow our route back to Caracas. That is even more serious, according to international regulations. The truth is that in Argentina, when we entered Immigration, they took us to a special area and they kept our passports until they received instructions. They gave us some provisional permits, and put us in the custody of an unidentified security entity during our stay at the hotel.
MAPP: There were raids, anti-terrorist security devices, passport seizures. That could have made sense if Emtrasur had never traveled to Argentina before, but this was not the case, since there is already a history of flights, signed contracts and humanitarian aid—correct, Major Pérez?
MG: And the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) certified that established regulations were violated, which is extremely dangerous and illegal.
CP: Unfortunately, many people speak as if we had parachuted there, without planning. That’s absurd. In order to buy the fuel, the broker who received the payment had all the data. We have previously carried out operations from China and Russia, Bombay (India), Pakistan, and Cuba
MA: I would add that more than 80% of our flights have been to bring medical supplies and equipment, and vaccines to countries that have contracts with us. This operation was conceived with the decision of the Venezuela government to bring 15 tons of humanitarian aid to Suriname on June 3, to attend to the victims of natural disasters
MG: Another important piece of information is that this plane was bought from Iran, and the established contract states that the crew had to be trained and qualified by Iranian pilots. The problem arises because the name of one of them coincides with that of an Iranian general who fought in the war with Iraq. That was the excuse for the media narrative of terrorists traveling in the plane. Now, assuming that someone from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard or someone from SEBIN was really there, what would be the problem? Don’t officials from the CIA, FBI, and other agencies travel the world? That began to be handled by Macrismo deputies and people who are still entrenched in the [Argentinian] judiciary.
MAPP: I was analyzing in detail the Argentinian media. I also went to see what was being said in Paraguay, and the entire linguistic structure of the narrative was hypothetical. A civil aviation captain had been mistaken for a general who died 40 years ago. In one case, a television anchor was even warned on the air and told that he was not the same person, but the anchor kept repeating it. So it is clear that it could be a trap. It is not something new, it happened with the sports, health, diplomatic, and media world. There is an effective harassment against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
MA: The environment is highly competitive for this type of business in the region. We offer a service that hardly a company in this world can offer. Our costs are impossible to match by other companies. Commercially we became a danger to long-established companies in the industry.
MG: As happened with the tanker that brought gasoline to Venezuela, in this case the right to free trade is being affected. Now, we have to perceive the political moment at which this occurs: just after the president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, acted as spokesperson for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) at the Summit of the Americas, and after the tour of President Maduro to six countries in the Middle East. This ploy was to torpedo those achievements. They could have done it before, when Paraguay contracted the services of Emtrasur.
MAPP: Yes, there are two sides: the international, of the architecture of sanctions; and the internal one, in which Macrismo has played an important role.
MG: There are a series of violations of international agreements and, in addition, the court has just extended the process for 10 more days. Tell us, Major Pérez.
CP: Yes, our defense there informed us that the judge decided to extend the investigation for another 10 days. They will keep looking for elements that they are not going to find, because nothing irregular happened.
MAPP: Isn’t this the first flight made by Emtrasur?
PC: No, not at all. We started operations in February. The first flight was of humanitarian aid that came to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela from Belarus. At that time, the number of Iranian crew members was greater. Of eleven that we had, now there are only five left. By the purchase-sale agreement, we have six months with the presence of Iranian crew members. Due to market needs, we have carried out various operations, especially to bring medical supplies. We brought 75 tons of insulin from Russia. We have moved live animals, cigarettes, and other products. The crew never had migration issues.
MG: What collateral damage does this bring?
CP: The most serious thing was to expose the names and faces of the working crew to the public opinion of a country. The physical integrity of the crew members was put at risk. That is no name for that, it is very unfair.
MG: In addition, it is a normal and natural operation that is done anywhere in the world.
MAPP: And it is a geopolitical response. It is a moment in which Venezuela is being pressured to lower its tone and dignity. There is a context. Returning to the technical subject, what are the characteristics of the plane?
CP: It is a key aspect. Our pilots have experience in other systems of the same Boeing. But we haven’t had this type of aircraft here since the time of Viasa (former Venezuelan state-owned company). It is a 747 that requires specific training in the simulator and in the cockpit. Here you can see how important the instructor is in this type of aircraft. In the transport of cargo, the correct distribution inside the aircraft is essential. If that is not done, the plane may lose its center of gravity and turn over. It is also very necessary to have advice on maintenance. It is not the same to change a tire on a 747-300 than on a 737 or Embraer 790, which are slightly smaller aircraft. And who can give us advice? The country from which we bought the aircraft. If we had bought it in Russia, the technicians would have been Russians. In the press, it has been commented sarcastically that the crew members were elderly, that they could not even carry their suitcases. Obviously, they are instructors, people with experience, with eight, eleven or fifteen thousand flight hours, thirty years flying. They can’t be 20-year-olds.
RELATED CONTENT: Venezuela Condemns Uruguay’s Irresponsible Refusal of Overflight Permission for Boeing 747
MG: Another aspect of international law that was flagrantly violated is the one that prohibits discrimination against people based on their nationality. In this case, all this was done on the grounds that some Iranians were travelling.
CP: The countries that issue permits and authorize air operations are required to provide the minimum services required by the aircraft. The fact that they allowed us to arrive in Argentina and they did not want to supply us with fuel violates the rules. Here everything was in order, there was nothing hidden, there was no reason to come out later with that decision not to refuel.
MG: It was a maneuver. They were given permission to later set up this false positive, saying that terrorists were coming.
MAPP: The truth is that journalists and politicians can say whatever, but when we look at the internal and international legal aspects, the truth is that they have been in Argentina for more than 20 days and still have not been charged. What is the legal status at this time and at this moment?
CP: They are being singled out and charged for reasons that are not completely clear. It’s all assumptions and hypotheses. It is a human drama to have the crew in these conditions. However, in addition, the company has had considerable losses because the aircraft is stopped there. We had other contracts that could not be fulfilled and, additionally, there is a need for the Venezuelan state to bring cargo. And here one asks a good question: who assumes responsibility for this in Argentina?
MAPP: Yes, it is the key question. Mario, please shed light on the treatment they have received and the situation they are in.
MA: In the midst of this complex situation and the lack of information, I must recognize the behavior of the hotel staff who have been very understanding and have sought ways to support us. In the media, the news has ups and downs. Sometimes they send journalists and photographers to do their job. We can move around the city, but we only do it for procedures inherent to the case. We have had to make a logistical effort because we came prepared for two days and we have already spent twenty-two. The treatment of the police forces has been respectful, although some acts were not duly authorized, such as the first raid on the plane. We have not been mistreated, but the fact of being here and with a case in summary secrecy, is already hard enough.
MAPP: Now, all this, and the journalistic information that you handle, Madelein, suggests that behind all this there are other interests, beyond the government and courts in Argentina.
MG: Completely. For example, here we have a tweet from this Tuesday, June 28, in which there is talk of a visit by officials from the State Department to several countries in the region. That means that behind this there is a whole operation.
MAPP: A source told me a few weeks ago that the United States, after the first meeting they held with Venezuela begging for oil, far from lowering tensions, what they have done is start an even greater persecution against everything that is Venezuelan. I asked him why, and he told me that in order to negotiate they need to bring Venezuela down, they need to be in a position of strength. Everything continues to be based on sanctions, which are unilateral measures, not based on international rules. In fact, everything is illegal, because there are some Venezuelan citizens illegally detained, without being charged with any crime, their documents are withheld, illegal raids have been carried out, they put people in danger when they did not let the plane land (in Uruguay).
MG: International air-use rights and parts of the agreement established with the Argentinian authorities have been violated. What can you tell us, Major?
CP: And not only that. Completely false versions of the events have been spread, such as that the crew turned off the transponder and interrupted communications with the control tower. The same aeronautical authority recognized later that this did not happen. Other alleged experts said that the aircraft is not a cargo plane, that it was a façade. And the truth is that on the original flight they took almost 600 cubic meters of parts and pieces for Volkswagen… So, where did we take them, would it be in the crew’s luggage? With these falsehoods they have mounted a case for which they kept 19 people, among whom there is a woman, a worker who has three children. Imagine how she feels, away from her family and with the great uncertainty that affects everyone.
MG: Now they have extended the investigation for another 10 days. What is going to happen?
PC: We don’t know. That is the problem, the uncertainty. They have not even been asked why they are in Argentina. They have said that the number of crew members is excessive because the normal number is between five and seven. That is so when you have trained crews. The company has sent all the documentation that explains the training plan that is being fulfilled. We have made it clear that these people are not walking around the plane.
MAPP: How much does a plane with these characteristics cost?
CP: A recent similar aircraft can cost about $200 million. An older model can be between $10 and $15 million. Even this cost is high for a company like ours. You have to fly a lot to get a return on the investment.
MAPP: I ask that question because they already kept our gold, Monómeros, CITGO, and the oil that came from Iran, by the way, and now it seems that they want to keep the plane.
MG: And here is a tweet that says that maybe we will have to wait until a former US official writes a book and tells what was the reason for this operation. It’s the same modus operandi.
MAPP: Around here Diogenes (a regular caller on the program) says that it is a typical aggression against sovereign countries. And I say that if there is no crime or legal documents, it is a hijacking. It is a violation of international aeronautical law and an attack on our sovereignty by retaining a national asset. Mario, how are your crew members feeling?
MA: In the midst of this situation and because of the uncertainty that overwhelms us, our stay here is complicated. From Caracas, César and the minister are following the case closely. We encourage each other and try to support each other. When one goes down there is always another trying to help. With respect to the Iranian comrades, it is difficult for them because they are exposed to the media.
MG: Because the soap opera continues, right?
MA: Yes, every day the media continue to do their thing. We try to support them, to help them get the right products and foods for their culture and diet. And, of course, we try to convey peace of mind to our families in Venezuela, who feel defenseless in the face of this unjust situation.
MAPP: Mayor Pérez, what comes next in the legal and technical-aeronautical aspects in this case?
CP: Continue making every effort to bring the entire crew safe and sound to Venezuela. Let our flagship aircraft also return, which is named Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi, after the Venezuelan independence heroine. I have faith that the whole truth will come out and we will have them here. Subsequently, the respective actions will be taken. We are a state company and that is why we will wait for instructions to take action.
MG: One of the most outrageous aspects is that there has been an attempt to persecute the crew because of their nationality, because they are Iranian and Venezuelan. And they also wanted to divide them, telling the Venezuelans that they could return to the country on a commercial flight, but not the Iranians.
CP: And they have even questioned who owns the aircraft, they have said that it is not really Venezuelan, as if there were no laws or aeronautical authority here. As if the acronym Yankee-Victor (YV) that is there with the flag of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela were a façade.
MG: Yes, and it is unusual because Venezuela is even opting for a seat in the ICAO and has had unanimous support because the country has been impeccable in aviation safety issues. They have nothing to stand on. We are facing a persecution.
CP: I take this opportunity to send a message of strength and solidarity to the crew. Every day I ask for this to be resolved. The priority is to bring the entire crew to be reunited with their families, to clear this up and end this nightmare.
MA: I appreciate this opportunity to spread the truth about our situation. We are very grateful for the solidarity we have received. We have our heads held high, we know that we are working with dignity, offering a service within the norm. We keep our spirits high.
MG: Thanks to you, because we know that they have also taken your belongings, your cell phones…
MAPP: What they haven’t been able to take away is their dignity.
MG: And it’s not the first time we’ve experienced a situation like this. Here we have told you what happened at other times, such as February 23. Here we await you with open arms, we must break the media siege, as Orlenys has done so far. We have to hold on to the truth, see the objective facts, and understand the international context.
MAPP: We at La IguanaTV offer to report everything that happens in detail and demonstrate that this is a hoax against Venezuela. We love and admire you very much.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
orinocotribunehttps://orinocotribune.com/author/orinocotribune/March 31, 2023
- Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)
- Click to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)