The diplomatic crisis between Panama and Venezuela escalated today with the decision of the Panamanian Government to suspend passenger transport activities and cargo of Venezuelan airlines for 90 days, which could be extendable.
The measure will enter into force on April 25 and affects “Aeropostal Alas De Venezuela, SA, Avior Airlines, Consorcio Venezolano de Industrias Aeronáuticas y Servicios Aéreos SA (Conviasa), Línea Aérea de Servicio Ejecutivo, Regional, Laser, Rutas Aéreas de Venezuela, S.A. (Ravsa), Santa Bárbara Airlines, and Turpial Airlines, C.A.,” said an official statement.
The resolution was approved on Tuesday by the Panamanian Executive Cabinet, whose vote was announced by the Government of Juan Carlos Varela through its official social networks.
The measure is announced after Panama withdrew its ambassador in Caracas, Miguel Mejía, last Thursday and asked Venezuela to do the same with his in ambassador in the country, Jorge Durán, who was called that same day by the Government of Nicolás Maduro.
Diplomatic legations are now in the hands of the people responsible for it.
The departure of the ambassadors was accelerated by the decision of Caracas to suspend flights to and from Venezuela from the Panamanian airline Copa for 90 days, renewable, which began last Friday.
Copa Airlines was one of the few international airlines that continued to fly to Venezuela, where the strict control of changes in force since 2003 limits the repatriation of foreign currency to companies.
Many Venezuelans use Panama's "air connectivity" to stock up on medicines, food and other staple products "lacking in Venezuela," President Varela said on Friday when criticizing the suspension of Copa in the South American country.
"I do believe," he added, "that having suspended flights (of Copa) certainly affects the people" of Venezuela, which is immersed in a generalized crisis due to food shortage and medicines and hyperinflation that has led thousands of Venezuelans to flee the country
Maduro suspended Copa flights as well as commercial relations with senior officials, including Varela, and 46 Panamanian companies, in response to the publication by Panama of a list of 55 Venezuelan officials and personalities that may represent a "high risk" of money laundering.
Thus, the Government of Panama urged the financial agents to oversee the supervision of any transaction related to the Venezuelans that appear on the list, including President Maduro, and 16 companies of the oil country.
Varela said that this list did not imply sanctions against Venezuelans, and its vice president and foreign minister, Isabel De Saint Malo, on Monday regarded the Venezuelan reaction as "aggressive and disproportionate."
"Panama has not taken commercial measures, but if Venezuela does not review its actions, we will react and adopt tougher measures in proportion, including the application of the law of retaliation," said De Saint Malo, a warning that materialized with the announcement of the suspension of Venezuelan airlines.
In its statement, the Panamanian government recalled on Tuesday that Venezuela is one of the 20 jurisdictions included in a list of countries that apply discriminatory measures against Panama.
That list was published last March by the Panamanian Government as a first step to apply "retaliation" measures in immigration, tax and tariff matters.
The resolution suspending the operations of Venezuelan airlines in Panama is supported "in the retaliation law and by virtue of the principle of reciprocity that governs international relations," said Varela’s Executive Branch.
De Saint Malo said Monday that relations with Venezuela "are in a great pause," and that under the circumstances he did not see "why Panama is going to seek rapprochement during the Summit of the Americas," to which Maduro announced today his attendance, despite the fact that the Government of Peru, host of the event, withdrew the invitation last February.
Panama and Peru make up the so-called Lima Group, composed of twelve countries that do not recognize the Venezuelan National Constituent Assembly or the early presidential elections of Venezuela. ACAN-EFE