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Daily Archives: May 21, 2008

Venezuela says US violated its airspace

Venezuela on Monday denounced what it called the violation of its national airspace by a US military aircraft, and said it would demand an explanation from the US ambassador.
Defence Minister Gustavo Rangel said the Venezuelan air defense system tracked what they said was a US naval aircraft over the Venezuelan island of Orchila on Saturday at 8:40 pm (0810 Macau time Sunday).
Rangel, speaking at a press conference with Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, said they have called for a meeting Tuesday with US ambassador Patrick Duddy to explain the incident.
Washington for years has had tense relations with the leftist government of President Hugo Chavez, who has said that US agents are funding plans to remove him from power. Chavez also says Washington was behind the April 2002 coup that ousted him for 47 hours.
A spokesman for the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Miami said it was reviewing counter-drug flights that were conducted in the Caribbean over the weekend.
"What I can tell you is we go to great lengths to respect the sovereign air space of all the countries in the region," said SOUTHCOM spokesman Jose Ruiz.
The US Air Force operates a base in Curacao from which most US counter-drug flights in the Caribbean are flown, Ruiz said. US Navy aircraft occasionally operate from the base, one of three so-called "forward operating locations" in the region.
The Venezuelan defense minister said the US military aircraft, which they identified as a Lockheed S3B Viking, "practically flew over" two Venezuelan islands before turning back and heading towards the Netherlands Antilles, small islands just off Venezuela's northern coast.
"We ordered the airplane to identify itself," Rangel said. "We have recorded proof of the conversation between ground control in Venezuela and the aircraft pilot."
Rangel read a translation of the exchange, in which the US pilot tells the Venezuelans that he left Curacao, one of the Netherlands Antilles islands, on a training mission and would be heading back to the point of origin.
"He said he was not aware that he was over Venezuelan territory," said Rangel. "This was a deliberate action. It is another link in the chain of provocations."
Maduro described the incident as an "illegal overflight."
"We are first going to listen to the explanations from the United States, and starting from there will take the necessary actions so this does not happen again," Maduro said.
The alleged incident comes after Interpol confirmed Thursday the authenticity of 38,000 computer files seized from Marxist Colombian guerrillas that Bogota says shows links between the rebels and the leftist governments of Venezuela and Ecuador.
The data was found on laptop computers, hard disk drives and USB memory sticks seized in a March 1 raid by Colombian soldiers on a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) jungle camp just across the border inside Ecuador.
The government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a close US ally, has said the data proves FARC is "financed and armed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez."
US officials said news reports of Venezuela's alleged links to the Colombian rebels were "highly disturbing."
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Maduro also said he spoke Monday with his Colombian counterpart Fernando Araujo about an alleged cross-border incident involving Colombian soldiers.
Venezuela on Saturday charged that a 60-man Colombian military unit was "intercepted" 800 meters on the Venezuelan side of the border in the southeastern state of Apure, and issued a formal protest to Bogota.
Colombia denies the incident — although Venezuela says it has pictures to prove it — and both sides on Monday agreed to activate diplomatic mechanisms to find out what happened, Maduro said.


Mexico attracting foreigners seeking euthanasia

At least 200 terminally-ill people from Australia, Britain, New Zealand and the United States have visited Mexico since 2001 to buy a cheap, widely available euthanasia drug, a newspaper reported Monday.
The Mexican newspaper Reform cited Exit International, a pro-euthanasia non-profit organisation from Australia that promotes Mexico as a destination for patients seeking to end their lives.
"On the basis of Exit research, the best places to visit are the 20-odd (US-Mexico) border crossings, from Tijuana in California through to Matamoros on the Gulf of Mexico," the group says on its website.
The organisation says that, nembutal, a drug usually used to put down animals, is "widely, cheaply and legally available, not only in Mexico but in many other South American countries."
"Throughout Mexico veterinary Nembutal is available for between 20 and 40 US dollars per 100ml bottle," it says. "One only needs to know the location of a veterinary supplier and the labelling in use at that location."
The Reforma article features Don Flounders, a 78-year-old British-born retiree with a deadly form of cancer who travelled from Australia to the Pacific coast town of Tijuana to get the medicine.
Flounders told the newspaper that he found a veterinary pharmacy that had a sign advertising "articles for Australians."