The U.S. Department of Transportation has ordered the suspension of all commercial passenger and cargo flights between the United States and Venezuela, citing reports of unrest and violence around airports in the South American country.
Some international airlines had stopped flying to Venezuela anyway because of security concerns and disputes over money they say the government owes them. But domestic airlines, including Laser Airlines and Avior Airlines, had been offering services to Miami.
Some Venezuelans also expressed concern about the impact of the ban on people receiving food and other provisions via cargo planes from relatives abroad to help them weather a humanitarian crisis.
In a letter to the Transportation Department requesting the halt, the Department of Homeland Security said “conditions in Venezuela threaten the safety and security of passengers, aircraft, and crew traveling to or from that country.”
Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Laser Airlines said it would maintain service to the United States through a layover in the Dominican Republic.
In a tweet, Laser said it would continue offering two flights between Miami and Caracas each day with layovers in Santo Domingo.
An Avior representative did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Copa Airlines, which operates flights between Caracas and its international hub in Panama City allowing passengers to continue on to the United States, said in an email that its operations would not be affected by the measure.
But many of the millions of Venezuelans who have fled the crisis in recent years use U.S.-based companies to ship goods to relatives in the country via cargo planes, and the measure prohibiting direct flights could raise costs, said Marcos Gomez, Amnesty International’s Venezuela director.
“It was a small bit of hope,” Gomez said in a telephone interview, likening the U.S. measure to a form of “collective blockade.”
American Airlines Group Inc, previously the largest carrier providing service between the United States and Venezuela, in March said it was indefinitely suspending its flights to Venezuela.
In April, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration prohibited U.S. air operators from flying below 26,000 feet in Venezuela’s airspace.
The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump last week expanded its Venezuela sanctions to the defense and security services sectors to pressure President Nicolas Maduro.
The moves are part of a four-month-old campaign against Maduro as the United States ramps up its support for opposition leader Juan Guaido.
Al-Qaeda Confirms Death Of AQAP Leader Qasim Al-Raymi
Al-Qaeda has confirmed the death of Qasim al-Raymi, the leader of Islamist group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Site Intelligence Group reported on Sunday.
US President Donald Trump announced earlier this month that the United States had killed al-Raymi in a counterterrorism operation in Yemen.
The United States regards AQAP as one of the deadliest branches of the al Qaeda network founded by Osama bin Laden.
JUST IN: Israel Confirms Its First Case Of Coronavirus
The virus was confirmed in a citizen who flew home from Japan earlier this week after being quarantined on the stricken cruise ship Diamond Princess.
“One of the passengers who returned home from the cruise ship in Japan tested positive in a checkup by the health ministry’s central laboratory,” a ministry statement said.
The statement added that the other dozen Israeli passengers who had flown home had all tested negative.
BREAKING: Two Test Positive For Coronavirus In Iran
Two people in Iran tested positive Wednesday for the deadly new coronavirus, the health ministry said in the Islamic republic’s first cases of the disease.
Kianoush Jahanpour, a ministry spokesman, said the cases were detected in the holy city of Qom, south of the Iranian capital.
“In the past two days, some suspect cases of the new coronavirus were observed in Qom city,” he said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.
“Teams were dispatched after receiving the reports, and based on the existing protocols the suspect cases were isolated and tested,” said Jahanpour.
“Out of the samples sent, a laboratory tested two of them as positive for coronavirus just minutes ago and some of the other samples were type B influenza.”
The health ministry spokesman said additional tests were being done on the two cases and final results would be announced “as soon as possible”.
The new coronavirus epidemic has killed more than 2,000 people in China and infected more than 74,000. It has spread to at least two dozen countries.
The United Arab Emirates was the first country in the Middle East to report cases of coronavirus last month.