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U.S. spy plane invaded Venezuelan airspace, embattled President Maduro says

By Doug G. Ware
An E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System participates in an exercise over Japan in 2004. On Tuesday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused the United States of violating his nation's airspace last week by sending AWACS aircraft over the South American nation on two occasions. File Photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Doti | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/15befbb63e971e774770d10755a98a28/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
An E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System participates in an exercise over Japan in 2004. On Tuesday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused the United States of violating his nation's airspace last week by sending AWACS aircraft over the South American nation on two occasions. File Photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Doti | License Photo

CARACAS, Venezuela, May 17 (UPI) -- Stressed and frazzled as he faces uncertainty in his government, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday accused the United States of breaching his nation's airspace with spy planes last week.

During a news conference at his presidential palace in Caracas, Maduro said Venezuelan military detected a Boeing 707 E-3 Sentry aircraft over guarded airspace twice last week -- just after 6 a.m. local time on May 11 and May 13.

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"Our military aviation detected the illegal entry, for unusual espionage tasks, of the [plane], which is an airborne early warning control center system that has all the mechanisms for espionage," Maduro said.

The leader further stated that the E3 Sentry, also known as AWACS, is used by Washington "to support communications of armed groups in war zones or to prepare actions to disable electronic equipment (of the) government, the armed forces or the economy."

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Maduro added that the "illegal entries ... are going to be severely protested to the United States government."

The Venezuelan president has claimed in recent weeks that he believes the United States is actively orchestrating a coup in Caracas to overthrow Maduro's government.

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Over the weekend, he extended a state of emergency in his country for an additional 60 days -- in an apparent attempt to hold onto power under the threat of a recall election. Maduro also called for military exercises to prepare for "any scenario" including a foreign invasion.

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"This is really not the case that the U.S. is rooting for any outcome other than there not be an economic meltdown or social violence," a U.S. official said of the situation. "There are reasons for concern that over the summer as Venezuela gives importance to payments on debt over imports that these events could spiral."

Daniel Uria contributed to this report

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