On Wednesday, the Transportation Department suspended all commercial flights to the South American nation of Venezuela as the country remains in turmoil.
According to VOA News, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao made the decision based on recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that there are conditions in Venezuela “that threaten the safety or security of passengers, aircraft, or crew.”
According to a DOT press release:
With the approval of the Secretary of State and in close coordination with the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao has issued an order today suspending air service between the United States and Venezuela.
Federal law authorizes the Secretary of Transportation, with the approval of the Secretary of State, to take immediate action to suspend the rights of foreign and U.S. air carriers to provide service between the U.S. and foreign airports when conditions exist at those airports that threaten the safety or security of passengers, aircraft, or crew.
The Acting Secretary of Homeland Security has requested this action based on his assessment of current security conditions in Venezuela, and the Secretary of State has given his approval. Secretary Chao has agreed to the request and is exercising her statutory authority to suspend air service to Venezuela.
The Secretary’s suspension order is in addition to the FAA’s Notice to Airmen issued on May 1, which prohibits most U.S.-certified aircraft operators and pilots from flying below 26,000 feet over the territory of Venezuela, also for reasons of safety and security.
DHS released its own statement, saying, “This determination is based on the ongoing political instability and increased tensions in Venezuela and associated inadvertent risk to flight operations.” DHS added that, along with the Transportation and State Departments, they “will continue to monitor this situation. If and when the conditions in Venezuela change, and if in the public interest, the [underlying] Secretaries will revisit this determination. Until then, the flight suspension will remain in effect indefinitely.”
Many international airlines, including American Airlines, have indefinitely suspended flights to Venezuela as a result of the order. However, Reuters reports that local airlines Avior, Laser, and Copa will continue passage to the South American nation through other international hubs including Santo Domingo and into the United States through airports in Miami and Panama City.
As The Daily Wire’s Ryan Saavedra reported in April, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido has been trying to supplant socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro, whose forces were ramming military vehicles into protestors.
President Trump said at the time on social media: “I am monitoring the situation in Venezuela very closely. The United States stands with the People of Venezuela and their Freedom!”
Vice President Mike Pence echoed those sentiments. “We are with you,” he said according to the AP. He added on social media: “[A]ll the freedom-loving people of Venezuela who are taking to the streets today in #operacionlibertad_Estamos con ustedes! We are with you!”
Despite international pressure to step down and the loss of support from locals, dictator Nicolas Maduro has refused to surrender power.