TAP barred from flying to Venezuela following Guiadó ‘explosives row’

Portugal’s flagship airline TAP has been barred from flying in to Venezuela for 90 days as the ‘explosives row’ involving would-be president Juan Guiadó (click here) shows no signs of abating.

Indeed, an overriding reason for all the acrimony bobbed to the surface in an extraordinary press conference yesterday in which the ‘second in command in Venezuela’ Diosdado Cabello referred to the “large part of Venezuela’s stolen money” being held by “Portuguese banks”.

He told reporters that Portugal was certainly not among the best countries that Venezuela has to deal with, and that possibly the country still feels it is “an empire”.

“Perhaps they still believe we are subjects, that we are a colony and that, as an empire they can give orders”.

Stressing that Venezuela only has one president, and that is Nicolás Maduro – despite the fact that the United States and at least 50 other countries have thrown their support behind Guiadó – Cabello referred to the ‘would-be president’ as both a “worm and a dangerous animal”.

Portugal has tried to ‘minimise’ the fuss that erupted after Juan Guiadó and his uncle flew into Caracas from talks with European leaders last week, but diplomatic efforts certainly don’t seem to have worked.

Guiadó’s uncle is still being held by Venezuelan authorities who claim he was carrying explosives hidden in the battery compartment of a pocket flashlight (or flashlights) – and carrying an internet pen with details of how to mount terrorist attacks, “written in English”,

Guiadó and almost certainly his uncle have refuted the claims. TAP has affirmed that it complied with all rules of airline safety – but Venezuelan authorities are convinced that “grave irregularities” were committed.

A 90-day shut-down barring the Portuguese airline is “the very least” that should follow, said Cabello after referring to Donald Trump’s presumed backing of Guaidó in disparaging terms.

The Portuguese government has already mounted an inquiry into the Venezuelan claims, despite foreign affairs minister Augusto Santos Silva having said last week that they “made no sense”.

But the truly sore spot in the controversy is the money, purportedly held by Novo Banco (click here).

According to past press reports, we’re talking about around €1.6 billion.

Today, head of diplomacy Augusto Santos Silva commented on the continuing row, labeling TAP’s censure as “completely unfounded and unjustified”.

He said the moratorium on flights was “an unfriendly act” for a country that has only ever tried to “speak to everyone” and find balance in a crisis that has already seen thousands of Venezuelans flee their homeland.