Though all of the major US carriers have already ended their flights to Caracas, the Department of Homeland Security has officially suspended all air traffic – passenger and cargo – between the US and Venezuela due to the “ongoing political stability and increased tensions.”
The decision follows a failed uprising spurred by opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized as the legitimate ruler of Venezuela by the US and about 50 other countries, and growing speculation that strongman Nicolas Maduro will hold on to power, since the country’s military and pro-government militias have firmly backed him, the FT reports.
One of the worst humanitarian crises in the world has been festering in Venezuela for about five years now, spurred by chronic mismanagement under the Maduro regime, and that of his predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Because of security concerns, rapid inflation, the difficulty of moving capital out of the country, and a shortage of passengers, most US airlines have already suspended flights.
Of the 32 foreign airlines operating in Venezuela in 2013, only about one-third remain active in the country, and the number of seats on international flights have fallen by 80%. American Airlines was the last major carrier to suspend flights to VZ, which it did in March.
While a few small carriers will be impacted by the ban, Venezuelans who rely on donations or remittances from relatives living abroad to survive, will be hurt by the decision, according to the New York Times. Many have relied on courier services from Miami to obtain hard-to-come-by medication, spare parts and foods.
“This will be a catastrophe for a lot of people,” said Feliciano Reyna, head of the health nonprofit Acción Solidaria, which receives medical donations from the United States through air courier services. “This will complicate enormously the transportation of humanitarian aid to the country.”
Accion Solidaria and other groups will now be forced to import their meds by sea or ship them through other countries, which will raise the cost and further restrict supply.
One airline that will be impacted: Avior Airlines, Venezuela’s largest private airline, which has operated daily flights to Miami from Caracas and the eastern city of Puerto La Cruz.