Venezuelan authorities say a U.S.-owned air freight company delivered a crate of assault weapons earlier this week to the international airport in Valencia to be used in “terrorist actions” against the embattled government of Nicolás Maduro.
An air freight company, 21 Air LLC, based in Greensboro, N.C., operates the Boeing 767 aircraft that the Venezuelans allege was used in the arms transfer. The flight originated in Miami on Feb 3.
The Boeing 767 has made dozens of flights between Miami International Airport and destinations in Colombia and Venezuela since Jan. 11, a flight tracking service shows, often returning to Miami for only a few hours before flying again to South America.
The discovery of the weapons occurred Tuesday — two days after the flight landed briefly in Valencia, Venezuela’s third-largest city — as tax authorities and other inspectors conducted a routine inspection of cargo that came off the flight, according to a statement by the Carabobo state governor’s office.
A senior Venezuelan security official, Bolivarian National Guard Gen. Endes Palencia Ortiz, who is the nation’s vice minister of citizen security, said authorities found 19 assault weapons, 118 ammunition cartridges, and 90 military-grade radio antennas, among other items.
“This materiel was destined for criminal groups and terrorist actions in the country, financed by the fascist extreme right and the government of the United States,” Palencia Ortiz was quoted as saying.
The freight company, begun five years ago, operates two cargo planes, a Boeing 747 and a Boeing 767, according to the 21 Air website. The Boeing 767, a 32-year-old aircraft once flown by the now defunct Brazilian carrier Varig, carries the registration N-881-YV and is the aircraft that landed in Valencia on Feb. 3.
The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent through its website. The cellular phone of the company’s chief executive, Michael Mendez, had a recording Thursday afternoon that said it could not accept calls.