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  • Venezuelan foreign minister’s stopover revives questions on SYRIZA-Maduro ties

    The Venezuelan opposition said the aircraft took off the day that the government removed large amounts of gold from the country’s central bank.

    Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro wipes his face while he speaks during a pro-government rally in Caracas, Venezuela August 27, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

    A mysterious four-hour Athens stopover of a Venezuelan state aircraft carrying Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza on 2 March was reported by Greek SKAI television and radio today.

    The aircraft had taken off from Caracas and arrived in Greece without a flight plan. It had previously been denied permission to land in both Portugal and Switzerland (Geneva).

    Once over Greece, the aeroplane requested and was granted a one-hour stopover at Athens’ Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport for refueling, but for reasons yet unknown remained on the tarmac for four hours.

    SKAI reported that the Venezuelan minister met in the airport’s VIP lounge with a person whose identity remains unknown, and it was unclear if it was a Greek government official or a diplomat from the Venezuelan Embassy in Athens.

    Main opposition New Democracy tabled a question about why Athens allowed the aircraft to land.

    Gold shuttle?

    Members of the Venezuelan opposition maintained that the aircraft took off the day that the government removed a large amount of gold from the country’s central bank.

    The final destination of the flight was the United Arab Emirates.

    The reason that Greece was chosen for the landing without a flight plan raised questions and some in Athens linked the development to ruling SYRIZA’s longstanding ties (even before it came to power) with the Venezuelan leadership – both with the late Hugo Chavez and Maduro.

    Greece is the only EU country that has not condemned the Maduro regime and the civil strife and deaths over the last weeks.

    The international press has repeatedly lambasted Tsipras for what it views as his scandalous support for Maduro.

    SYRIZA-Venezuela ties

    A recent in.gr report referred to SYRIZA’s ties with Caracas. It noted that the government’s resounding support for the Maduro regime and its opposition to the decisions of the EU and specifically of the European Parliament raised questions given the Tsipras government’s moves to forge much closer ties to the US.

    Main opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis is among the opposition figures that have alluded to a possible secret special relationship between Greece’s ruling party and the Chavez and Maduros governments.

    Some critics have hypothesised that the ties may be part of a broader framework of Venezuela’s financial support for left-wing parties internationally, but that clearly remains speculation and innuendo.

    The past trips of Tsipras and his right-hand man, Digital Policy Minister Nikos Pappas, to Caracas had fueled rumours. That was particularly true of a 2013 trip (before SYRIZA came to power) to Caracas of Pappas, who was accompanied by businessmen (including representatives of oil companies) and lawyers specialising in the creation of offshore companies.

    Few were persuaded by Pappas’ statement that he went to Caracas to explore the expansion of the two countries’ commercial ties, including amazingly the procurement of products from Caracas supermarkets.

    On a trip to Caracas while he was in the opposition, Tsipras had said that Chavez (whose funeral he later attended) was receptive to his proposal to donate heating fuel to the residents of Athens’ traditionally working class neighbourhood of Kaisariani, an idea that never came to fruition.

    on 2 March was reported by Greek SKAI television and radio today.

    The aircraft had taken off from Caracas and arrived in Greece without a flight plan. It had previously been denied permission to land in both Portugal and Switzerland (Geneva).

    Once over Greece, the aeroplane requested and was granted a one-hour stopover at Athens’ Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport for refueling, but for reasons yet unknown remained on the tarmac for four hours.

    SKAI reported that the Venezuelan minister, who remained unnamed, met in the airport’s VIP lounge with a person whose identity remains unknown, and it was unclear if it was a Greek government official or a diplomat from the Venezuelan Embassy in Athens.

    Gold shuttle?

    Members of the Venezuelan opposition maintained that the aircraft took off the day that the government removed a large amount of gold from the country’s central bank.

    The final destination of the flight was the United Arab Emirates.

    The reason that Greece was chosen for the landing without a flight plan raised questions and some in Athens linked the development to ruling SYRIZA’s longstanding ties (even before it came to power) with the Venezuelan leadership – both with the late Hugo Chavez and Maduro.

    Greece is the only EU country that has not condemned the Maduro regime and the civil strife and deaths over the last weeks.

    The international press has repeatedly lambasted Tsipras for what it views as his scandalous support for Maduro.

    SYRIZA-Venezuela ties

    A recent in.gr report referred to SYRIZA’s ties with Caracas. It noted that the government’s resounding support for the Maduro regime and its opposition to the decisions of the EU and specifically of the European Parliament raised questions given the Tsipras government’s moves to forge much closer ties to the US.

    Main opposition leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis is among the opposition figures that have alluded to a possible secret special relationship between Greece’s ruling party and the Chavez and Maduros governments.

    Some critics have hypothesised that the ties may be part of a broader framework of Venezuela’s financial support for left-wing parties internationally, but that clearly remains speculation and innuendo.

    The past trips of Tsipras and his right-hand man, Digital Policy Minister Nikos Pappas, to Caracas had fueled rumours. That was particularly true of a 2013 trip (before SYRIZA came to power) to Caracas of Pappas, who was accompanied by businessmen (including representatives of oil companies) and lawyers specialising in the creation of offshore companies.

    Few were persuaded by Pappas’ statement that he went to Caracas to explore the expansion of the two countries’ commercial ties, including amazingly the procurement of products from Caracas supermarkets.

    On a trip to Caracas while he was in the opposition, Tsipras had said that Chavez (whose funeral he later attended) was receptive to his proposal to donate heating fuel to the residents of Athens’ traditionally working class neighbourhood of Kaisariani, an idea that never came to fruition.

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