Venezuela’s top diplomat here is urging the Mia Mottley Government to reconsider its plans to lift the ban on the importation of drones.
Charges d’affaires at the Venezuelan embassy Alvaro Sanchez Cordero said in light of Saturday’s apparent assassination attempt on president Nicolás Maduro, during which movie set drones armed with explosives were used, Barbados would be compromising its national security by lifting the ban.
“All this technology is very new and Venezuela has legislated against it. So this [seeing drones flying] was not normal under those circumstances, especially when it comes to an event featuring the president. Any flying object would be seen as a security risk,” Sanchez told a media briefing this morning at the embassy in Hastings, Christ Church.
“Here in Barbados the law prohibits such devices and I think that is how it should be. I think after what happened many countries should be taking precaution in order to avoid such dangers in their own venues,” the diplomat said.
Maduro was delivering a speech on Saturday to mark the 81st anniversary of the national guard, when two drones filled with more than four pounds of plastic explosives flew toward him, his wife and other top Venezuelan leaders, the Associated Press reported.
The Venezuelan leader blamed Columbia for the alleged attack, a charge Bogota has dismissed as “baseless”.
Interior Minister Néstor Reverol said six “terrorists and hired killers” had been arrested, several vehicles seized and hotels raided, while Maduro has warned the perpetrators face “maximum punishment”.
At his news conference this morning, Sanchez warned that these types of attacks were not new in other parts of the world and therefore the Caribbean should not be naïve in thinking it is insulated from such acts.
“ISIS [the Islamist jihadist group] has been using this tactic is recent years in Syria and Yemen, using this exact type of drone. These drones are apparently very agile, easy to manoeuvre and are not very expensive. It may be new in the Venezuelan context but it is certainly not new in the context of modern warfare. I think it is something to study and to follow and to learn from,” he stressed.
Government announced plans last month to lift the two-year-old ban on the importation of drones into the country, although a date has yet to be determined.
“It has been drawn to my attention that two years ago the importation of drones was suspended and that it was suspended because of the fact that we had no regulatory framework, which we still do not have, and there was no proper training of operators of drones,” Minister of Tourism and International Transport Kerrie Symmonds said during the 80th anniversary logo unveiling at Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA).
Symmonds said at the time the ban could not be lifted until the necessary licensing process was put in place and provision made for training.
The then Democratic Labour Party administration implemented the ban in April, 2016, while making provisions for temporary exemptions on a case-by-case basis for the importation of drones meant to be shipped out of the country immediately after use.
It said at the time the ban was implemented to allow for the completion of a legal framework, which it reported in September last year was “at an advanced stage”, before extending the ban by a further 12 months in May of that year.
However, Symmonds said the unmanned aircraft systems should not have been allowed here in the first place, without the right regulatory framework in place, while insisting that training should be offered in the use of drones, which critics say pose risks to safety, security and privacy if not properly regulated.