By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- A US-sanctioned Iranian jet flew into the Venezuelan airport serving the capital city of Caracas and offloaded 10 trucks of cargo, less than 48 hours after top US envoy for Iran and Venezuela Elliot Abrams warned that the US would “eliminate” any long-range missiles Tehran sends to the embattled Nicolas Maduro regime.
Iran has been stepping up support for Maduro, sending millions of barrels of gasoline to assuage a severe shortage of fuels, sending technicians and spare parts to restart troubled Venezuelan refineries through Mahan Air, another Iranian airline sanctioned for its ties to the Quds Force and even opening a supermarket in the capital city of Caracas. All of that during the Coronavirus pandemic.
But Tuesday afternoon, Iranian-Venezuelan cooperation hit a new high when a 747 EP-FAB from US-sanctioned Iranian airline Qeshm Fars Air landed at the Simon Bolivar International Airport in Maiquetía at 4:45 pm. Local news site “El Pitazo” had pictures of the plane, cargo bay open, being alleviated of its cargo in several containers that took 10 trucks to transport and a crew of 36 to unload.
The arrival took place less than 48 hours after Donald Trump’s top envoy for Iran and Venezuela, Elliot Abrams, warned Maduro and his Iranian allies that the US would “eliminate” any long-range missiles that Tehran sends to Venezuela. "The transfer of long-range missiles from Iran to Venezuela is not acceptable to the United States and will not be tolerated or permitted," said Abrams, who is the US State Department’s Special Representative for Iran and Venezuela.
The aircraft is sanctioned by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, OFAC, after being designated as a means of armaments for the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorist organization.
This is not the first Iranian sanctioned aircraft to come from Iran into Venezuela: Mahan Air, an airline the US has linked with Iranian Quds Forces, has flown regularly all through 2020 to two airports in Venezuela, the above mentioned Simon Bolibar in Maiquetia and another one near the country’s largest refineries in Punto Fijo.
The unloading was carried out in the remote zone W of the runway 10-28 of the airport of Maiquetia, “El Pitazo” reported, adding that according to sources at the airport, the process is “absolutely controlled by the Vice Presidency of the Republic of Venezuela”, meaning Delcy Rodriguez, Maduro’s current Vice President. The sources do not know what kind of cargo the aircraft brought.
Considered a firebrand even amongst hardcore “chavistas”, Rodriguez is the daughter of 1970s urban guerilla fighter Jorge Rodriguez, who kidnapped US businessman William Niehous in 1976. Rodriguez died in police custody during interrogations that same year and Niehous was freed after more than three years as a hostage in 1979.