The US has barred American pilots and low flying planes from going into Venezuela indefinitely following opposition leader Juan Guaido’s failed coup, citing “increasing political instability and tensions.”
The Federal Aviation Administration has issued an “international security” notice barring all US pilots and US-registered aircraft from flying lower than 26,000ft (about 5 miles) over Venezuela, claiming the ongoing struggle between the US-backed opposition and President Nicolas Maduro’s government creates an “inadvertent risk to flight operations.” While it’s unclear how the situation in the air has changed, the order applies indefinitely going forward, “until further advised.”
American pilots and planes currently in Venezuela have been advised to get out within the next 48 hours and the order does not prohibit US aircraft from landing if they have authorization from “another agency of the United States government.”
American Airlines already suspended its flights to Venezuela in March due to the political situation, and no other US airlines currently offer flights to Caracas.
The FAA warned pilots traversing Venezuelan airspace to “exercise caution” in February, explaining that due to the “heightened tensions,” Venezuelan air defense systems might fall into the hands of “potentially violent and unpredictable non-state actors” even if the Venezuelan military was not about to shoot down civilian planes.
The Trump administration has blamed Cuba and Russia for Guaido’s failure to wrest control of Venezuela from Maduro, and after Tuesday’s failed coup attempt, Trump threatened to punish Cuba with further sanctions and an embargo, even though Cuba has been subject to a near-total US embargo since 1962.