Venezuela confirms it shot down 'drugs plane' off Aruba

SAO PAULO - Venezuela confirmed Friday that it was responsible for the downing of a civilian plane suspected of trafficking drugs off the southern Caribbean island of Aruba.

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López was quoted by local media as saying that the aircraft was “disabled,” countering statements by Aruba made Thursday that it was downed in its territory.

"Yesterday a plane once again breached our airspace, landed in Apure (in the southwest of Venezuela); after taking off our air force intercepted it and it did not obey our orders and was disabled ... in our territorial waters," Padrino told reporters in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.

According to Venezuela's El Tiempo newspaper, the defense minister said the plane had been shot down 25 nautical miles to the northeast of Punto Fijo airbase.

Aruban officials said Thursday that a plane had come down in flames off the island's coastline and human remains and what appeared to be packages of drugs could be seen in the water.

No details were given by Aruban or Venezuelan officials about those on board the aircraft, although it was reported that it was registered in the United States.

Venezuela has shot down a number of planes suspected of trafficking drugs in recent years, mainly in the west of the country located on a known drug route between Colombia, the Caribbean and United States.

Last year Padrino Lopez said the country had intercepted and shot down 31 aircraft in 2013.

According to El Tiemplo, Venezuela passed a law in 2012 regarding defense mechanisms authorizing the intercepting and disabling of aircraft infringing on the country's airspace.

Located near the Venezuelan coastline, Aruba is a semi-autonomous island that is part of the Netherlands, which also includes the Caribbean territories of Curaçao and Sint Maarten.

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