Dutch FM denies Venezuela's remarks on supporting US spy flights
Dutch FM Verhagen denied fresh accusations by the Venezuelan government that the Netherlands is supporting U.S. spy flights over Venezuelan territory.
Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen on Friday denied fresh accusations by the Venezuelan government that the Netherlands is supporting U.S. spy flights over Venezuelan territory.
Verhagen condemned the comments as "inaccurate, unjust and really out of place" in a statement on Friday and said he would summon Venezuela's ambassador again to explain the remarks.
Twice in the past two weeks, the government of President Hugo Chavez has publicly claimed that the Dutch have let the U.S. military launch spy flights from bases on the territories of Aruba and Curacao under the guise of drug surveillance missions.
On Dec. 17 Chavez said the Netherlands was planning "aggression" against Venezuela in concert with the United States, and on Thursday his government again charged the Dutch with "complicity" in such plans.
Verhagen said the Netherlands had made clear to the Venezuelan government that the civilian airports in the Dutch islands have been made available to the United States solely for unarmed drug surveillance missions.
The United States has for years had a military presence on Curacao and Aruba, with about 250 Air Force crew and ground staff involved in counter-narcotics and surveillance operations over the Caribbean region.
In its statement on Thursday, the Venezuelan government questioned whether that was their true purpose.
"The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela doubts the installations that the Netherlands government has put at the disposition of U.S. military contingents are used in the fight against drugs," it said.
The Foreign Ministry, which summoned the Venezuelan ambassador last month, said on Friday it wanted to see the ambassador again "quickly" to clarify the new comments.
The alleged threat of U.S. intervention in the oil-producing South American nation has become a central element of Chavez's discourse and a rallying cry for his supporters.
While he is Latin America's loudest U.S. critic, foes say Chavez is hyping the idea of a foreign threat to distract Venezuelans from pressing domestic problems such as economic recession, rampant crime and inadequate public services.
Reuters Last Mod: 02 Ocak 2010, 00:25