When I was in Mexico a few weeks ago, one of the big stories was a Venezuelan shoot-down of a Mexican plane. In fact, this was at least the third time that the Bolivarian armed forces had shot down a Mexican-origin plane in the last year.
What is going on? In 2011, we published some maps showing that since at least 2008 large numbers of unidentified aircraft took off on the Colombia-Venezuela border and flew over Venezuela before landing in eastern Honduras. The route makes it clear what most of them were doing.
President Chávez was less-than-thrilled with the implication that his country was complicit in the cocaine trade. “It’s hard to think about it but, look at what’s going on here. Planes from neighboring countries come here and our Sukhoi or F-16 airplanes try to make them land, but they make some maneuvers and at times get away. … They mock our pilots.” So he sent a bill to the National Assembly allowing the military to shoot down unidentified air traffic. Chávez’s illness and death slowed things down, but President Maduro pushed the bill through in 2013.
And since then some unknown number of aircraft have gone down over the Bolivarian Republic. It should come as no great shock that there are a lot of worries that these planes may not have been all carrying narcotics.
I have a friend who works for the Air Force. There may be unclassified data that will let us see if the hair-trigger Venezuelans have had an effect. He knows who he is.