Argentina seizes Venezuelan cargo plane with Iranian crew on board

A Boeing 747-300 of Venezuelan airline Emtrasur Cargo waits at Cordoba Airport, Argentina, before heading to Buenos Aires on June 6, 2022.Sebastien Borso (AFP)

The landing of a Venezuelan-flagged plane in Buenos Aires caused unexpected diplomatic chaos. On June 6, a Boeing 747-300 from Emtrasur, Conviasa’s cargo carrier headquartered in Caracas, arrived in Ezeiza from Mexico with its warehouses full of auto parts. Two days later, the plane attempted to fly to Uruguay, but was denied landing and returned to its starting point. Uruguay’s refusal drew attention in Buenos Aires. Opposition MPs requested reports. The government reviewed cargo and crew documents. The result was the detention of 14 Venezuelans and five Iranians in a hotel and a plane that could not take off due to a lack of fuel.

Understanding the novel “the Venezuelan-Iranian plane”, as the press calls it, means deciphering the plot of a conspiracy involving four countries: Argentina, Venezuela, Iran and the United States. According to the first investigations, the Empressor Boeing was Venezuelan for a short time: until last January and for 15 years, it flew for the Iranian airline Mahan Air, a company that is under sanctions by the United States. From there, they warned against penalizing any foreign company that provides logistical assistance. This is why the plane was stranded: neither the Argentinean oil company YPF nor Shell wanted to sell the fuel. The plane prostrated by the lack of gasoline is already a story, but there is more.

The Emtrasur flight left Mexico a week ago with its warehouse full of auto parts. Two Iranian pilots took command. The Argentine authorities found nothing strange in the documents and allowed the landing. The shipment was announced and the crew list did not attract attention. At least until this Monday. And the Minister of the Interior, Anibal Fernandez, admitted that “after entering” the plane, “information was received, through various channels, from foreign organizations that warned that part of the crew belonged to companies linked to the Iranian Quds Force and the Revolutionary Guards.” The situation became very sensitive. The United States considers Jerusalem a terrorist group. Argentina accuses members of Jerusalem of being behind the 1994 attack that blew up the headquarters of the Joint Jewish Association in Buenos Aires, AMIA. 85 people were killed in the attack, the worst ever recorded in the South American country.

The lights are on one of the crew members, Gholam Reza Qasemi Abbas. “He is a relative of Iran’s interior minister, and his name matches that of a member of the Revolutionary Guards and the director of a company linked to Jerusalem,” Fernandez said. “If you ask me if it is, I don’t know, the name matches. The rest is an analysis we will do with the immigration department and certainly the airport security police will do the same,” he said.

What does Gholam Reza Qasemi Abbas do in Buenos Aires on a Venezuelan cargo plane? Why does a plane that needs five crew members carry 19? These questions were raised by the delegation of the Argentine-Israeli Associations (DAIA), which asked the justice to investigate the plane and its runway. According to the flight path sheet of Emtrasur, it has landed over the past month in Paraguay (where a shipment of cigarettes was left), as well as Belarus, Tehran and Moscow. For DAIA President Jorge Knoblovits, “terrorists do trial and error.” The flight, under this reading, will have the task of measuring the control capacity of the various airports. “A Venezuelan plane is enough to worry. The Iranian plane is also something to worry about. An Iranian-Venezuelan plane is more worrying.” Iran is a terrorist state. He added that there are two terrorist attacks with impunity in this country, namely the Israeli embassy and AMIA.

The Jewish community is highly critical of Argentina’s investigation into the attacks. And much more about the relationship between Kirchneria, Venezuela and Iran. DAIA does not forgive Christina Kirchner the memorandum she signed in 2013 with Tehran that attempted to facilitate the announcement of the Iranians accused of the attack, many of whom are senior government officials. The text was approved by the Argentine Congress, but did not enter into force because the Iranian parliament rejected it. However, former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has commissioned a lawsuit, for a cover-up. The prosecutor who investigated her, Alberto Nisman, was found dead in his apartment four days before he was to report to deputies, under circumstances that remain mysterious.

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