Venezuela says intercepted U.S. intelligence plane in its airspace

 (Xinhua) — The Venezuelan armed forces have intercepted a U.S. intelligence plane after it entered the South American country’s airspace, the Venezuelan government said Sunday.

The U.S. plane, which entered Venezuelan airspace without prior notification, was identified on Friday, the government said in a statement.

Noting that the “incursion” violated international rules and threatened the safety of commercial flights, Venezuelan authorities said the armed forces escorted the intelligence gathering aircraft out of the airspace.

U.S. Southern Command said in a statement on Sunday that its Navy EP-3 Aries II plane, while “flying a mission in approved international airspace,” was “aggressively shadowed” by a Venezuelan fighter plane.

Venezuela has been suffering mounting U.S. economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation against the Venezuelan government in support of the opposition leader Juan Guaido.

The political crisis in the country has deepened since January, after Guaido declared himself “interim president” and was recognized by Washington following Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s inauguration for a second term.