Venezuela has lashed out at Washington for the “sneaky” entry of a US destroyer into the Latin American country’s territorial waters, denouncing the move as an “act of provocation.”
The US Southern Command claimed on Wednesday that the guided-missile destroyer USS Pinckney had conducted a “freedom of navigation” operation more than 12 nautical miles off the Venezuelan coast and in international waters in the Caribbean Sea.
The Southern Command also said the warship had been deployed to “challenge” what it called the Latin American country’s “excessive maritime claim in international waters.”
The Venezuelan foreign ministry countered the US claims on Thursday saying that the USS Pinckney had violated maritime laws by entering the Contiguous Zone, which extends for 24 nautical miles off the South American country’s coast.
“The sneaky way the US boat entered Venezuelan territorial waters was a clear violation of International Maritime Law and can only be described as an inexcusable act of provocation, albeit erratic and childish,” said the foreign ministry.
The Southern Command had also referred to the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro as “illegitimate.”
The violation was the second time in three weeks after the US Navy deployed the guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze off the Venezuelan coast on June 23. Venezuela called the operation a provocation and said it would respond forcefully if the US warship conducted any military operation against Venezuela.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has been attempting to overthrow the democratically-elected government of Maduro, including with harsh sanctions and threats of military action.
Back in May, a group of mercenaries attempted to intrude into the northern Venezuelan state of La Guaira on speedboats in a gung-ho operation to kidnap Maduro. Venezuela’s military foiled that attack, killing eight of the armed men and arresting several others, including two who were US citizens.
The contract under which the mercenaries carried out the attack bore the signature of Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaido, who plunged the country into political turmoil after he unilaterally declared himself “interim president” of Venezuela in January last year.
Guaido, with Washington’s assistance and receiving help from a small number of rogue soldiers, later launched a botched putsch against the elected government.
Washington has so far imposed several rounds of sanctions against Venezuela.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan foreign ministry rejected as “biased” a United Nations (UN) report claiming that the independence of the Latin American country’s justice system was undermined by insecurity and a lack of transparency.
The 15-page report by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, claimed that Venezuelan offenders were victims of human rights violations and had difficulty obtaining justice in the country’s courts.
“This biased report… is a palpable example of the double standards, manipulation and shameful political use of international mechanisms by a small group of countries,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The ministry also accused the United States and other nations of “aggression” towards Venezuela, which has been in political turmoil since last year when Guaido declared himself acting president and rejected Maduro’s 2018 re-election.
Guaido, denounced by Caracas as a “US puppet”, has so far defended Washington’s sanctions against the Venezuelan people, and on Thursday backed the UN report.