By Beyza Binnur Donmez
ANKARA (AA) - Portugal slammed Venezuela's decision to suspend flights of Portuguese TAP Air for 90 days Tuesday after Caracas accused it of transporting opposition leader Juan Guaido on a plane with explosives.
"Completely unfounded and unjustified. I don't see any kind of justification, either because of TAP's history in Venezuela, because of how much TAP has already given and because there is no evidence," Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said, according to Portuguese economy news site ECO. "Any possible evidence to scrutinize has been presented in an objective way, other than just allegations.”
He said Portugal opened an investigation, which is still ongoing, immediately after Venezuela's accusation of transportation of explosives onboard the TAP plane that was carrying Guaido and his uncle, Juan Jose Marquez, back to Venezuela.
Venezuela announced Monday the suspension of TAP Air's operations "for security reasons" after explosives transport charges on a flight coming from Lisbon.
"Because of the serious irregularities committed in the TP173 flight, in accordance with national regulations of civil aviation, the airline's operations TAP will be suspended for 90 days," Transportation Minister Hipolito Abreu tweeted.
Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez also confirmed the suspension, saying: "Venezuela must be respected!"
Despite defying a court-imposed travel ban, Guaido was not arrested upon his return to Venezuela last Tuesday. But authorities arrested the uncle of the opposition leader after he arrived at Caracas International Airport, accusing him of bringing explosive material into the country.
During Guaido's international tour aimed at ousting President Nicolas Maduro, the opposition leader visited the White House, the World Economic Forum and met high-ranking officials in Europe and Canada.
Since the beginning of 2019, Venezuela has been embroiled in political unrest as Maduro and Guaido engage in a power battle amid a dire economic crisis in the Latin American nation.