Venezuela claims US spy plane violated its airspace

CARACAS (AFP) - Venezuela claimed on Sunday (Nov 9) that a United States Coast Guard intelligence plane had violated its airspace, an allegation promptly denied by the American military branch.

The Dash 8 plane took off on Friday from the Hato Rey base on the Caribbean island of Curacao and entered Venezuelan airspace close to the western Los Monjes archipelago on the Caribbean coast, Defence Minister Vladimir Padrino said in a televised address.

"The most serious part is that this aircraft violated air space, our air space," he said, adding that the plane flew in a "circular search pattern" by the Gulf of Venezuela.

The US Coast Guard rejected the claim.

"As far as we know, there was no US Coast Guard that was flying through Venezuelan airspace," spokesman Chad Saylor told AFP.

"If there is an aircraft, it's not ours."

He said there were no US Coast Guard planes in the area.

Venezuela's claim "is unfounded as far as we are concerned", chief warrant officer Saylor added.

Mr Padrino claimed that no US authorities "reported that presence" to the control tower at Simon Bolivar International Airport, "as required by international aviation law".