ATHENS – A Venezuelan government plane that was barred from other European Union countries was allowed to land at Athens International Airport with the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA sympathetic to embattled Venezuelan strongman President Nicolas Maduro.
The plane carried Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said after the incident was reported by SKAI TV, which said the aircraft remained for four hours before taking off again.
Major opposition New Democracy spokesperson Maria Spyraki demanded the government explain why the flight was given permission to land in Athens when other EU countries refused, noting Venezuela’s main rival party accused Maduro of using the plane to fly money, gold and relatives of senior officials out of the country.
CAA said it was an “ordinary flight” that travelled through Greek airspace according to its submitted flight plan that showed it left Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and landed in Athens after flying over Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
While waiting for the plane to refuel, Arreaza waited in the VIP lounge, following a request from the Venezuelan embassy, CAA said. He did not meet with anyone while he was there, it was said.
The plane headed to Cape Verde off the northwest coast of Africa, according to the flight plan. Diplomatic sources from the Greek foreign ministry confirmed the plane landed in Athens to refuel and that no state official met with Arreaza, the paper said.
Maduro is a favorite of Tsipras despite the Venezuelan leader being accused of massive corruption and widespread shortages of basic goods in that country where humanitarian aid from other countries has been barred and people said to be suffering.