Since 8th June, a plane with a Venezuelan registration belonging to the cargo airline Emtrasur (a subsidiary of flag carrier Conviasa), has been held at Buenos Aires’s Ezeiza international airport. The grounding has become something of a mystery noir with links as far as Iran implied.
The plane is suspected of having ties to a branch of Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps called Quds Force.
An academic, security expert and director of a centre for studies on international relations in the US explained, “The central unanswered question in this development is why did Argentina allow the plane to land? The government would have been aware that the plane was in the sights of the US and Israeli intelligence agencies.”
“The central unanswered question in this development is why did Argentina allow the plane to land? The government would have been aware that the plane was in the sights of the US and Israeli intelligence agencies.”
Academic and security expert, USA
The development comes at a time when Buenos Aires is working to show markets and multilateral partners that it can be a trusted partner, politically and economically. Argentina is being watched like a hawk by multiple multilateral organisations not least the Washington-headquartered IMF with which it has just renegotiated a USD 40 billion debt refinancing.
A former high-ranking Argentine government official and security expert explained, “This is terrible timing for the administration – president Alberto Fernández (“Fernández”) is facing record low approval ratings and now seems to have further dented his reputation by allowing a plane from Venezuela with reputed terrorists on board to land in the country.”
Behind the scenes, there are mutterings that it was vice-president Cristina Kirchner (“Kirchner”) who has been talking to Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro (“Maduro”) and could have greenlighted the flights.
Indeed, Maduro reportedly uses Emtrasur to transport weapons, smuggle and engage in drugs trafficking. Washington worries most about reports that the planes have been used to transport uranium – critical to the development of Iran’s nuclear programme. Former high ranking Venezuelan officials, now in exile, have remarked that Iran is attempting to establish terrorist cells in Argentina with Venezuelan support.
Particularly confusing are the discrepancies given in the number of crew, “ … the crew lists given by Paraguay and Uruguay had 7 Iranians, the one published by the Argentine Ministry of the Interior says only 4,” according to the security expert.
“… the crew lists given by Paraguay and Uruguay had 7 Iranians, the one published by the Argentine Ministry of the Interior says only 4.”
Academic and security expert, USA
Regarding Venezuela, there are no longer any doubts about the involvement of its government in organised crime – as Amnesty International and others have made clear – but this latest episode raises the suspicion that Argentina could also be involved at a state-to-state level.
For the former Argentine government official, “This will deepen the break between Fernández and Kirchner. Kirchner has been linked to this network of illegal businesses and Fernández is leading a government that is sinking into scandals and economic mismanagement and does not need yet another problem to contend with.”
Naturally, it is difficult to establish truth whilst investigations continue. That said, it is notable that the plane landed whilst Fernández was in Los Angeles attending the Summit of the Americas and Kirchner was left in charge. The plane in question left Iran whist Maduro was holding talks with the Ayatollah in Tehran. We are not one for conspiracy theories, but it doesn’t take too much thinking outside the box to join the dots.