Venezuela breaks ties with Air Canada over flights suspension

CARACAS, March 18 Tue Mar 18, 2014 1:48pm EDT

CARACAS, March 18 (Reuters) - Venezuela's government said on Tuesday it was breaking commercial ties with Air Canada a day after the airline suspended flights to Caracas citing the country's civil unrest.

Air Canada said it could no longer ensure the safety of its operations. At least 29 people have been killed during about six weeks of protests and violent clashes between demonstrators and the security forces.

"Commercial relations with @AirCanada are ended as of this moment," Hebert Garcia, Venezuela's minister for air and aquatic transport, said on his Twitter account. "We will make the relevant announcements through the Foreign Ministry."

Air Canada had operated three return flights weekly between Toronto and Caracas. Airlines have struggled to obtain dollars in exchange for Venezuelan bolivars as a result of delays in the country's decade-old currency control system.

Avianca Holdings, operator of Colombia's biggest airline, said last week it will cut flights between Bogota and Caracas to one service a day from three beginning March 20.

German airline Lufthansa said earlier in the month its 2013 financial results took a double-digit-million-euro hit from payment issues in Venezuela.