Uruguay's Foreign Minister Francisco Bustillo Monday stressed his country never put the Venezuelan-Iranian plane currently seized in Buenos Aires at risk.
On June 8 and following instructions from Defense Minister Javier García, Uruguayan authorities denied the Boeing 747-300 of Emtrasur -Conviasa's cargo subsidiary- entry into Uruguayan territory, due to which it had to fly back to Argentina.
The former Mahan Air aircraft had been denied refueling at Ezeiza because of a US sanction against it, which might extend to those helping a unit said to have been involved in international terrorist activities sponsored by Iran.
In that scenario, the aircraft's Iranian captain reportedly tried to refuel at Montevideo's Carrasco.
The Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro claimed that after landing back in Argentina, the aircraft had 17,000 liters of fuel, far below the recommended amount according to Emtrasur's Standard Operating Procedure, which is set at 20,000 liters.
”It is clear that the crew was not put at risk, that was the first thing that was taken into account by the Minister of Defense (Javier García), Bustillo replied Monday during a press conference. The top diplomat also stressed Uruguay had acted within the framework of legality and insisted Nicolás Maduro's opinion does not dent his country. We are sovereign and we make our own decisions,” he also highlighted.
While Argentina's judiciary is trying to cope with seemingly conclusive reports from the FBI regarding the 747's captain's identity and links to terrorism despite efforts from government officials, namely Security Minister Aníbal Fernández and Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI) Chief Agustín Rossi, to downplay that piece of information, other sources have highlighted the copilot too should be investigated.
Paraguayan Intelligence Minister Esteban Aquino, who first confirmed the captain was not a namesake but the actual Iranian Revolutionary Guard officer known for actions in Syria and other places, has now raised doubts about the first officer's identity.
Who is the co-pilot? Is the last name correct or not?, Aquino wondered in a radio interview about Mahdi Museli, who like the rest of the Iranians and Venezuelans of the Emtrasur aircraft crew, are staying at a hotel in the Ezeiza area, their passports withheld by local authorities.
Aquino also insisted it was striking to notice that switching off the transponder was common practice for Emtrasur's 747. The transponder is a device whereby airplanes are tracked and identified by air traffic control services.
I reiterate to our brothers in the region: in these cases, we must be absolutely supportive and professional. We must not say pejoratively: 'That Paraguayan minister'. That Paraguayan minister wanted to help you, he wanted to alert you so that nothing bad would happen in your house. It is the security of the States, which we are committed to defending, Aquino complained.
If I receive an alert, an indication, a minimal signal, no matter from which country, I take it with the necessary professionalism. I give it to my analysts and we will see: to throw it in the dustbin or to move forward on it. We are a small agency, with a small budget ... but we do know the phases that exist for the perpetration of an attack based on what has happened around the world and also in our region. We have to make sure that this is not one of those phases and take all precautions in that sense.
In a separate radio interview, Argentine criminal lawyer and activist Florencia Arietto, formerly linked to the opposition Juntos por el Cambio, said the co-pilot of the Iranian plane is of Iraqi nationality and uses a false name.
The problem is the AFI because it does not work as it should, she added.