Air Canada suspends flights to Venezuela as protests rage

Canada's airline cancels flights to Caracas as it 'can no longer ensure the safety of its operation'

LAST UPDATED AT 13:12 ON Tue 18 Mar 2014

AIR CANADA has suspended all flights to Venezuela due to security concerns after the country's recent violent protests.

The airline said that it would temporarily halt flights to Caracas until the situation stabilises, the BBC reports.

"Due to ongoing civil unrest in Venezuela, Air Canada can no longer ensure the safety of its operation and has suspended flights to Caracas until further notice," it said in a statement.

The airline said that it would notify affected customers, and offer them a full refund if they have not yet commenced their travel. Any customers who are mid-travel will be booked on to other airlines at no additional charge, the company said.

The announcement comes just days after Venezuela's president Nicolas Maduro vowed that any airline that altered its regular service in and out of the country would face "severe measures", Canadian broadcaster CTV News reports. He warned airlines that cancelled flights that they would not be allowed back into the country while he held power.

The South American country has witnessed serious disturbances over the last six weeks and 29 people have died during demonstrations against Maduro.

Protesters have expressed a range of grievances including anger over the country's financial mismanagement, crime, corruption and the presence of Cuban advisors in the upper echelons of Venezuela's army and state institutions, The Guardian reports.

Analysts believe that the uprising is unlikely to topple the current regime, but Maduro has come under intense pressure from foreign governments over the heavy-handed response of security forces in quelling demonstrations. · 

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