Venezuela Shoots Down Planes, Mexico Asks Questions

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Two Mexican aircraft — one of which was suspected of transiting illicit drugs — were shot down in Venezuela for reportedly illegally entering the country’s airspace, underscoring the potential dangers involved in these type of interdiction operations.

On December 8 and December 9, Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez posted on Twitter (see below) photos of planes with Mexican licenses that were reportedly shot down by the Venezuelan military. Both planes were taken down in Venezuela’s northwest department of Apure, according to La Jornada.

One of the planes, “violated [Venezuelan] airspace, presumably for drug trafficking purposes” Padrino’s December 8 tweet reads.

Mexico’s Secretary on Foreign Relations has requested confirmation from the Venezuelan government of the social media reports, reported BBC Mundo. The status of the pilots of the two planes remains unclear, reported Excelsior.

InSight Crime Analysis

Policing airspace is difficult. Policing those who police airspace is sometimes even more difficult.

The latest shoot-down incident in Venezuela is eerily similar to a 2013 case in which Padrino also posted photos on Twitter of two suspected drug planes taken down by Venezuela’s military in Apure, near the Colombian border.

As in the current case, it is not entirely clear who authorized the take-down of the suspected drug planes, and on what grounds. The evidence is filtered, tightly controlled. We are left with Twitter pictures and public declarations. It’s not clear what evidence the Mexican government will obtain.   

Venezuela — a popular departure point for planes trafficking Colombian cocaine — approved a shoot-down law in 2012 of any aircraft thought to be carrying illicit drugs.

SEE ALSO: Venezuela News and Profiles

The incident highlights the inherent risk associated with shoot-down policies, even as an increasing number of countries in the region adopt such measures. As seen in the 2001 case of a plane carrying US missionaries that was shot down in Peru and the take-down of two civilian planes in Honduras in 2012, these policies can have severe unintended consequences. 

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