Envoy Says U.S. May Ban Venezuelan Flights

Venezuelan authorities want the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to end safety restrictions on Venezuelan airlines and said they said they will decide on March 30 whether to impose a ban on U.S. flights.


CARACAS, Venezuela_Venezuelan flights to the United States would be banned if Venezuela bans flights by most U.S. airlines to the South American country, U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield said Tuesday.

Venezuelan authorities want the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to end safety restrictions on Venezuelan airlines and said they said they will decide on March 30 whether to impose a ban on U.S. flights.

"I hope this doesn't happen because if it happens, it's not a possibility, it's not a probability, it's with absolute certainty that my government ... would also halt the flights by Venezuelan airlines to the United States," Brownfield said.

"Under that situation, Venezuela doesn't win, and the United States doesn't win," he added.

In 1995, the FAA lowered Venezuela's carriers to category 2, forcing Venezuelan airlines to fly planes rented from U.S. companies or from airlines operating out of category 1 countries, such as neighboring Colombia.

The FAA ruled in 1995 that Venezuela must tighten its airline safety procedures and downgraded its civil aviation authority, restricting flights because Venezuela allegedly didn't meet international safety standards.

Despite the restrictions, two Venezuelan lines still serve the United States using rented planes, Aeropostal and Santa Barbara.

Venezuela insists it has long since corrected any safety problems and recently invited FAA officials to inspect its airlines.

Venezuela's proposed ban, which would prohibit flights by Continental Airlines Inc. and Delta Air Lines Inc., and restrict some by AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, comes amid increasingly tense ties between Caracas and Washington.

U.S. officials say leftist President Hugo Chavez has failed to commit himself to democratic principles and poses a threat to the region's stability. Chavez has repeatedly accused U.S. officials of trying to discredit his "revolutionary" government and orchestrate his ouster. American officials deny those allegations.

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