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Venezuela maintains commercial relations with Panama, interrupts Copa flights



CARACAS / PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – Venezuela has suspended trade with Panamanian officials and companies, including regional airline Copa, on Thursday for alleged money laundering and has called on both countries to recall their ambassadors.

Panama President Juan Carlos Varelas signs a guest book during a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential House in San José, Costa Rica on March 21
, 2018. REUTERS / Juan Carlos Ulate

The resolution mentions Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela and nearly two dozen Cabinet ministers and senior officials, saying that Panama's financial system has been used by Venezuelan nationals involved in corruption.

The individuals mentioned in the resolution "represent an imminent threat to the (Venezuelan) financial system, the stability of trade in the country and the sovereignty and economic independence of the Venezuelan people," said Venezuela.

The statement came a week after Panama declared Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and about 50 Venezuelan citizens "high risk" for money laundering and terrorist financing.

Venezuela's civil aviation authority said in a statement that inbound and outbound Copa flights were suspended for 90 days, on Friday, "as a measure to protect the Venezuelan financial system".

Copa, a major provider of international flights, is following a drastic reduction in airline services to the crisis region of Venezuela, not responding to a request for comment.

Panama announced that he recalled his ambassador to Venezuela and followed Caracas, which he did a few hours later.

Panama Varela described the Venezuelan announcement in short comments on Thursday as nonsensical.

"We have heard nothing about breaking the relationship, but more about a series of alleged sanctions – it's gibberish," Varela said.

Venezuela has been sanctioned by Canada, the US and a number of other countries, ranging from human rights abuses to corruption and drug trafficking.

Maduro says that the country is the victim of an "economic war" led by its opponents with the help of Washington, and says that sanctions are part of foreign efforts to undermine its government.

Additional coverage by Caracas Newsroom; Edited by G. Crosse and Leslie Adler


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