CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela said on Friday it shot down a civilian plane after it ignored communications off its Caribbean coast near the island of Aruba, but denied any violation of international airspace.
Authorities on Aruba, a semi-autonomous island that is part of the kingdom of the Netherlands, had said on Thursday the aircraft being pursued by Venezuelan military jets went down off its coast, with human remains and packages of drugs visible in the water.
Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino told reporters the plane, which first landed in Apure state, was shot down after ignoring communications on takeoff.
“It didn’t obey orders and it was annulled 25 nautical miles northeast of the Josefa Camejo (military) base, that is to say, in our territorial waters,” the Venezuelan minister said.
“Some are saying we violated international air space. No. All military actions are taken in our geographical space to exercise sovereignty and independence under the constitution.”
Padrino gave no more details of casualties or what the plane was doing. Venezuela for several years has operated under a shoot-down policy when drug flights are suspected.
The plane was U.S.-licensed, and 400 drug packages, mostly of cocaine, were found near the wreckage, Aruba officials said on Friday.
Reporting by Diego Ore and Andrew Cawthorne in Caracas; Additional reporting by Nelson Andrade in Aruba; editing by Gunna Dickson