US seizes plane Iran sold to Venezuela

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By LatAm Reports Editor

After a long time chasing him, the United States managed on Monday to definitively take over the Venezuelan cargo plane that the Argentine government immobilized in June 2022 in Buenos Aires at the behest of Washington, which claims that the apparatus served for covert operations of Venezuelan and Iranian agents throughout Latin America.

“The seizure by the United States of the Boeing 747 cargo plane ends more than 18 months of planning, coordination and execution by the U.S. government and our Argentine counterparts,” said Markenzy Lapointe, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida after it was known that the aircraft had finally landed in Miami and was already under the control of the federal authorities.

The pulse around the plane, by the Venezuelan airline Emtrasur, began after being stranded in Buenos Aires due to lack of fuel. He had arrived in the Argentine capital on the 6th and two days later he planned to go to Montevideo, but Uruguay denied him access to his airspace, so he had to return to the Argentine airport, where he was held at the request of the United States. Its 19 crew members were arrested.

The United States accuses the Mahan Air airline of transporting the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which Washington considers a terrorist.

Before belonging to Emtrasur, owned by the Venezuelan state, the Boeing had operated with Mahan Air, an Iranian airline sanctioned by the United States for its links to the Quds Force, the powerful elite paramilitary arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran, whom Washington considers a terrorist organization.

Washington says Mahan Air is providing arms and fighters to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

At the time of their seizure, the Argentine authorities were struck by the fact that the crew was much higher than that required for such flights. Among them were five Iranian citizens. Emtrasur then claimed that they were flight instructors.

The pilot of the plane, Gholamreza Ghasemi, United States was attributed to having been a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

The governments of Tehran and Caracas denied U.S. accusations that the plane actually served for Iranian intelligence operations in Latin America and an Argentine judge ordered in October 2022 the release of the last crew members who were imprisoned for the “lack of merit” of the charges against them.

The aircraft, however, was retained as in July 2022, the United States Department of Justice, with the collaboration of the Argentine authorities, obtained a court order for the plane to be confiscated in Buenos Aires for the unauthorized transfer of Boeing from the sanctioned Mahan Air to Emtrasur.

The ties between Venezuela and Iran

Chavez and Ahmadineyad forged a close alliance.

Last January, an Argentine judge ordered the freighter to be handed over to the United States, a decision that the Venezuelan government called “robo.”

The Boeing 747-300M model was manufactured between 1982 and 1990 and its initial selling price was estimated at $83 million.

Mahan Air has been on the Commerce Department’s sanctioned entity list since 2008. An order being renewed prohibits him from participating in any transaction in which U.S. exported products are affected and Boeing is a U.S. design and manufacturing aircraft.

The United States has been systematically imposing sanctions on the governments of Iran and Venezuela, which it accuses of violating human rights. Iran is also considered one of the countries sponsoring terrorism by the State Department. The Iranian government denies this and instead reproaches the United States for destabilizing the Middle East region with its imperialist policy.

In response, Caracas and Tehran have strengthened their ties and concluded cooperation agreements.

During the governments of Hugo Chávez and Mahmud Ahmadineyad – in Venezuela and Iran, respectively – Tehran became one of Caracas’ main political allies outside Latin America.

Beyond signing a lot of oil and economic agreements, many of which were not met or at least failed to meet the goals they had set, Caracas and Tehran led a kind of anti-American political front with the support of Syria and other Latin American governments such as Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador.

After Chavez’s death and Ahmadineyad’s departure from power, this bond has been maintained but not with the same vitality.

During Nicolas Maduro’s government, Iran has helped Venezuela with shipments of gasoline and Iranian technicians are believed to have helped repair the decaying Venezuelan refineries.

This article has been translated from the original which first appeared in Prensa Libre